The Arctic hare employs the specialized digestive system of recycling that is common to all members of the hare and rabbit families. This system is called reingestion or refection. It allows better utilization of nutrients.

The first stage in the digestion process takes place in the usual manner in the hare's digestive system. This produces a soft fecal pellet of partially digested plant material. The hare eats this soft pellet directly from the anus. The end result the second time around is a round, hard pellet.

Reingestion of the soft fecal pellets happens during rest periods. The hard round pellets are passed while the hare is moving and feeding.
The Arctic hare employs the specialized digestive system of recycling that is common to all members of the hare and rabbit families. This system is called reingestion or refection. It allows better utilization of nutrients.

The first stage in the digestion process takes place in the usual manner in the hare's digestive system. This produces a soft fecal pellet of partially digested plant material. The hare eats this soft pellet directly from the anus. The end result the second time around is a round, hard pellet.

Reingestion of the soft fecal pellets happens during rest periods. The hard round pellets are passed while the hare is moving and feeding.

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

Arctic Hare

This Arctic hare is reingesting a pellet.

Photo: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Arctic Hare

The small, dark spheres are pellets left by Arctic hares.

Photo: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Arctic Hare's Digestive Organs

The largest of the Arctic hare's digestive organs is the caecum or appendix (on right), which does the initial digesting before recycling. The hare was probably killed by a Gyrfalcon.

Photo: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Smell

The Arctic hare’s (Lepus arcticus) sense of smell is well developed and the nose and nostrils are constantly moving, checking the airborne scents. Arctic hares sniff the snow or ground in searching for food, and they check rocks and other objects frequently for the scent of other hares.

At Sverdrup Pass on Ellesmere Island (now in Nunavut), David Gray observed that adult male hares frequently rub their chin over rocks, and, in his camp, on box corners and tie-down cords. They leave a distinctive smell on objects they have rubbed.

Vision

Arctic hares have large eyes placed at the side of the head. The position of the eyes gives hares an extremely broad range of vision. Without turning their head, they can see almost 360° around them.

The pupils are round and the iris is a dark reddish brown. The Arctic hare’s black eyelashes protect against the sun’s glare, just as do sunglasses or the black paint football players use below their eyes.

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Smell

The Arctic hare’s (Lepus arcticus) sense of smell is well developed and the nose and nostrils are constantly moving, checking the airborne scents. Arctic hares sniff the snow or ground in searching for food, and they check rocks and other objects frequently for the scent of other hares.

At Sverdrup Pass on Ellesmere Island (now in Nunavut), David Gray observed that adult male hares frequently rub their chin over rocks, and, in his camp, on box corners and tie-down cords. They leave a distinctive smell on objects they have rubbed.

Vision

Arctic hares have large eyes placed at the side of the head. The position of the eyes gives hares an extremely broad range of vision. Without turning their head, they can see almost 360° around them.

The pupils are round and the iris is a dark reddish brown. The Arctic hare’s black eyelashes protect against the sun’s glare, just as do sunglasses or the black paint football players use below their eyes.

Hearing

Arctic hares are able to move their long, furred ears into different positions. When alerted by an unusual sound, they will turn their ears so the opening faces the direction of the sound’s origin. Also, ears are important for communication through body language.

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

Arctic Hare

This Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) is rubbing its chin on rocks at Polar Bear Pass, on Bathurst Island in Nunavut.

Photo: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


The normal locomotion pattern for a feeding hare is a four-legged hop. The two forefeet move ahead a step each, and then the hind legs move forward together.

When alarmed, Arctic hares stand straight upright on their hind legs, often bouncing up and down on tiptoe while assessing the danger. This posture is a striking adaptation to the environment, in which the hare gains a better view of the treeless tundra from the higher vantage-point. If the danger is real they bound away at top speed, hopping on hind feet much as a kangaroo does, with the forelegs held against the chest. They usually flee uphill. In this manner a wary hare can easily outdistance most would-be-predators.

David Gray recorded video of an Arctic hare fleeing an Arctic fox at Sverdrup Pass. The hare left five sets of hind foot prints as it hopped up a snowbank. The average distance between the prints of the hind feet was 1.7 m (5 ft. 8 in.) the longest jump was a full 2.08 m (6 ft. 10 in.).
The normal locomotion pattern for a feeding hare is a four-legged hop. The two forefeet move ahead a step each, and then the hind legs move forward together.

When alarmed, Arctic hares stand straight upright on their hind legs, often bouncing up and down on tiptoe while assessing the danger. This posture is a striking adaptation to the environment, in which the hare gains a better view of the treeless tundra from the higher vantage-point. If the danger is real they bound away at top speed, hopping on hind feet much as a kangaroo does, with the forelegs held against the chest. They usually flee uphill. In this manner a wary hare can easily outdistance most would-be-predators.

David Gray recorded video of an Arctic hare fleeing an Arctic fox at Sverdrup Pass. The hare left five sets of hind foot prints as it hopped up a snowbank. The average distance between the prints of the hind feet was 1.7 m (5 ft. 8 in.) the longest jump was a full 2.08 m (6 ft. 10 in.).

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.

Arctic Hare

When Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) run, each forefoot takes its step in turn, and then the hind feet move forward together.

Photo: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Arctic Hare

Two views of an Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) in an alert posture, standing on hind toes.

Photo: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Hare running

This young Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) is fleeing from perceived danger during a snowstorm.

Image Credits: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

© 2004, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will be able to:
  • Describe the system if reingestion;
  • Recognize the skull of lagomorphs;
  • Demonstrate that they understand the importance of the senses to the Arctic Hare.

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