In the North, local names for the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) in Inuktitut, Inuinaqtun, and Innu include many similar variations of Ukaliq, including: Okalerk, Okalik and Okalishugyuk.

An English-speaker would pronounce Ukaliq something like "ook-ah-lick" (’ook’, as in ’book’).

When speaking English, Northern residents call the Arctic hare ’rabbit’. Historically, the Arctic hare has also been called the alpine hare and the polar hare. In Newfoundland, Arctic hares are simply called ’hares’, although sometimes they are called ’jackrabbits’ (but not ’rabbit’, which is used to refer to the snowshoe hare).

To avoid confusion from the variety of common names that may be applied to the same animal, scientists use Latin to devise a specific scientific name for each species. The scientific, species name of the Arctic hare is Lepus arcticus, which means ’hare of the Arctic’.
In the North, local names for the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) in Inuktitut, Inuinaqtun, and Innu include many similar variations of Ukaliq, including: Okalerk, Okalik and Okalishugyuk.

An English-speaker would pronounce Ukaliq something like "ook-ah-lick" (’ook’, as in ’book’).

When speaking English, Northern residents call the Arctic hare ’rabbit’. Historically, the Arctic hare has also been called the alpine hare and the polar hare. In Newfoundland, Arctic hares are simply called ’hares’, although sometimes they are called ’jackrabbits’ (but not ’rabbit’, which is used to refer to the snowshoe hare).

To avoid confusion from the variety of common names that may be applied to the same animal, scientists use Latin to devise a specific scientific name for each species. The scientific, species name of the Arctic hare is Lepus arcticus, which means ’hare of the Arctic’.

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

Scientists place all plants and animals into a system of classification that is based on their common features. Arctic hares belong to the Class of animals called Mammalia. Like all other mammals, they have fur and females nurse their young.

Within the mammals, hares belong to the Order Lagomorpha, along with rabbits and pikas. Lagomorpha means 'hare-shaped'. Lagomorphs have four teeth as incisors at the front of the upper jaw: two smaller peg-like teeth form a buttress at the base of the two larger incisors, supporting and strengthening them. Worldwide there are more than 40 species of lagomorph, including more than 20 hares, 11 rabbits and six pikas.

Lagomorphs are divided into two Families: hares and rabbits are members of the Family Leporidae, and pikas are in the Family Ochontonidae.

In a further subdivision, hares are grouped in the Genus Lepus (which means 'hare'). Rabbits are placed in the Genus Oryctolagus ('hare-like digger') or Sylvilagus ('hare of the woods').

Species is the final classification. The species name is usually used with the genus name. Doing so identifies the animal specifically, distinct from related species in Read More
Scientists place all plants and animals into a system of classification that is based on their common features. Arctic hares belong to the Class of animals called Mammalia. Like all other mammals, they have fur and females nurse their young.

Within the mammals, hares belong to the Order Lagomorpha, along with rabbits and pikas. Lagomorpha means 'hare-shaped'. Lagomorphs have four teeth as incisors at the front of the upper jaw: two smaller peg-like teeth form a buttress at the base of the two larger incisors, supporting and strengthening them. Worldwide there are more than 40 species of lagomorph, including more than 20 hares, 11 rabbits and six pikas.

Lagomorphs are divided into two Families: hares and rabbits are members of the Family Leporidae, and pikas are in the Family Ochontonidae.

In a further subdivision, hares are grouped in the Genus Lepus (which means 'hare'). Rabbits are placed in the Genus Oryctolagus ('hare-like digger') or Sylvilagus ('hare of the woods').

Species is the final classification. The species name is usually used with the genus name. Doing so identifies the animal specifically, distinct from related species in the same genus. The Arctic hare species is arcticus, so Lepus arcticus is used to refer to the Arctic hare.

Scientists also use subspecies names to distinguish between slightly different forms of a species, which are usually found in different geographical areas. Nine subspecies of Arctic hare are recognized, based on size, skull features and coat colour. The northernmost, High-Arctic subspecies is identified as Lepus arcticus monstrabilis because of its greater size. The western subspecies is named L. a. andersoni in recognition of the Arctic work of biologist R.M. Anderson (formerly of the National Museum of Canada, precursor to the Canadian Museum of Nature).

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

Pika

The American pika (Ochotona princeps) lives on rocky slopes in the mountains of western North America. Other pikas live in Japan and central Asia.

Image credits: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

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


There are two kinds of rabbits and three kinds of hares native to Canada. The eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) lives in southern Ontario and Manitoba. Nuttall’s cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii) ranges north into southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. The other Canadian hares are the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), which is found across the forested areas of Canada north to the treeline, and the white-tailed jack rabbit (Lepus townsendii), which is restricted to the prairies of southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The European hare (Lepus europaeus) is found in southern Ontario since being introduced there.
There are two kinds of rabbits and three kinds of hares native to Canada. The eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) lives in southern Ontario and Manitoba. Nuttall’s cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii) ranges north into southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. The other Canadian hares are the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), which is found across the forested areas of Canada north to the treeline, and the white-tailed jack rabbit (Lepus townsendii), which is restricted to the prairies of southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The European hare (Lepus europaeus) is found in southern Ontario since being introduced there.

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

Showshoe Hare

The winter fur of the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) has a dark under-fur, unlike the all-white fur of the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus).

Image credits: David R. Gray
Canadian Museum of Nature

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


Jackrabbit

White-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) in summer.

Image credits: S.D. MacDonald
Canadian Museum of Nature

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


In most respects the Arctic hare resembles its relative the snowshoe hare. The differences are in the adaptations to the demanding Arctic environment.
At 4 to 5 kg (9 to 11 lb.), an average adult Arctic hare is approximately three times the weight of an average adult snowshoe hare. Arctic hares live beyond or above the treeline. Snowshoe hares live in forested areas. Though both species have black ear tips (fur), they are more extensive and noticeable in Arctic hares. Arctic hares have only one litter per year. Snowshoe hares have up to three litters per year. The size of the snowshoe hare population goes through a regular seven-year cycle (increasing and decreasing). We don't know if the Arctic hare goes through a cycle of population fluctuation.
In most respects the Arctic hare resembles its relative the snowshoe hare. The differences are in the adaptations to the demanding Arctic environment.
  • At 4 to 5 kg (9 to 11 lb.), an average adult Arctic hare is approximately three times the weight of an average adult snowshoe hare.
  • Arctic hares live beyond or above the treeline. Snowshoe hares live in forested areas.
  • Though both species have black ear tips (fur), they are more extensive and noticeable in Arctic hares.
  • Arctic hares have only one litter per year. Snowshoe hares have up to three litters per year.
  • The size of the snowshoe hare population goes through a regular seven-year cycle (increasing and decreasing). We don't know if the Arctic hare goes through a cycle of population fluctuation.

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

Hares are born in the open, with fur, open eyes, and ready to move. Rabbits are born in a nest, naked, with eyes closed, and helpless. Hares generally have longer hind legs and ears relative to their body-size than rabbits do. Arctic hares and Eastern cottontails are pictured here.
Hares are born in the open, with fur, open eyes, and ready to move. Rabbits are born in a nest, naked, with eyes closed, and helpless. Hares generally have longer hind legs and ears relative to their body-size than rabbits do. Arctic hares and Eastern cottontails are pictured here.

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

Newborn Hares and Rabbits

Newborn, furred Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) and newborn, furless eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus).

Image credits: Con Finlay, Allan G. Austin
Canadian Museum of Nature

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


Learning Objectives

The student will be able to:
  • explain the difference between a hare and a rabbit;
  • recognize the name of the order that the arctic hare belongs to;
  • compare the American Hare to the Arctic Hare.

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