Black-tailed jackrabbits are not listed as threatened or endangered
The white-tailed jackrabbit, Lepus townsendii is listed as
a species of special concern by several states including California.
availability is threatened to some extent by development
and in some areas populations are dwindling. Their large numbers
in orchards, agricultural fields
, and rangelands can do considerable
damage and ranchers and farmers often need to cull
Populations of black-tailed jackrabbits undergo drastic fluctuations with numbers peaking every six to ten years. In some years more than 90 percent of western populations die from tularemia, which may or may not be related to the population changes.
Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in Dutch:
Common Names in English:
black-tailed jack rabbit, Black-tailed jackrabbit
Common Names in Spanish:
Liebre De Cola Negra, Liebre cola negra
Species Lepus californicus
Although the black-tailed part of the black-tailed rabbit’s name
is correct in that its tail is black, the rabbit part is not. These
animals are hares, not rabbits. Several factors
from rabbits. Hares have a leaner body and longer
ears and legs
usually do not build nests
, and their young are born well-furred
with their eyes wide open. Three species of hares are native
the snowshoe, black-tailed, and white-tailed. The latter two are
commonly called jackrabbits. Black-tailed are the most abundant and
widespread of all the jacks
and the only one found in desert habitats
The huge ears of jackrabbits enable them to regulate their body heat by increasing or decreasing the blood flow through their ears which helps them to absorb heat or cool off when temperatures in their environment change. This is called thermoregulation. Their eyes are situated on the sides of their head , a position that gives them all-around vision, enabling them to spot danger coming from any direction . The coloration of their fur, brown with black tips , provides camouflage against the brush , letting them blend into their surroundings during their day sleep.
The long back legs of these jackrabbits give them the ability to run at high speeds to escape from danger. They are able to reach speeds of 56 km/hr (35 mph) and can jump about 1.5 m (5 ft ). Pound for pound they are the long jump champion. The soles of their feet are covered with fur which cushions them on hard ground and insulates them from the scorching heat of hot desert sands .
The largest of the North American hare species, adult black-tailed jackrabbits have a total length of about 50-60 cm (20-24 in) from nose to rear . The length of their tail is 6-9 cm (2-3.5 in), ears, 10-15 cm (3.9-5.9 in), and hind feet about 14 cm (5.5 in). They weigh 2.4-3.9 kg (5.2-8.6 lb ). Females are slightly larger than males.
The preferred habitats of black-tailed jackrabbits are valleys and flat, open country such as desert brushlands , meadows, prairies, farmlands, and dunes. They like the areas to be dry and with short grass . They use many different types of vegetation and are often found in agricultural areas where they can impact fruit and grain crops . Jackrabbits often inhabit pastures that have been grazed by livestock.
Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 2,470 meters (0 to 8,104 feet).
L. californicus is capable of inhabiting many types
(Flinders and Chapman 2003). This species is positively associated,
and distribution, with overgrazing by domestic
livestock (Flinders and Chapman 2003). Diet
is also variable for
this species, dependent
upon vegetation availability and location
(Flinders and Chapman 2003). Generally, grasses and forbs
during the summer, while shrubs
are chosen during winter months (Flinders
and Chapman 2003). Variability in home range
size is due to multiple
, and competition
(Flinders and Chapman
2003). L. californicus exhibits
crepuscular feeding behavior
(Flinders and Chapman 2003).
The total length of L. californicus is 46.5-63.0 cm (Hall and Kelson 1959). The breeding season is variable, contingent on latitude and environmental factors (Flinders and Chapman 2003). In Idaho the season is restricted to February to May (French et al. 1965). Where distribution occurs at lower latitudes the breeding season extends; in the southwestern USA it may last from early January to September (Griffing and Davis 1976). Gestation is variable but ranges from 40-47 days (Flinders and Chapman 2003). The litter size varies from 3.8-4.4 in the north to three to six in the south, giving a total output per female per year of about 10-14 (Best 1996). Total length at birth is variable dependent upon litter size, but a measurement in Arizona gave a length of 14.0 cm (Vorhies and Taylor 1933). Adult mortality is approximately 57%, while juvenile mean mortality ranges from 59-63% (Flinders and Chapman 2003)..
List of Habitats:
- 1 Forest
- 1.4 Forest - Temperate
- 1.5 Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- 2 Savanna
- 3 Shrubland
- 3.4 Shrubland - Temperate
- 3.5 Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- 4 Grassland
- 4.4 Grassland - Temperate
- 4.5 Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- 8 Desert
- 8.1 Desert - Hot
- 8.2 Desert - Temperate
- 14 Artificial/Terrestrial
- 14.1 Artificial/Terrestrial - Arable Land
- 14.2 Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland [more info]
Jackrabbits are strict
herbivores whose diet
varies depending on
the time of the year and their habitat
. In summer months they eat
cacti, sagebrush, mesquite, alfalfa, clover, other grasses, and herbaceous
vegetation. In fall
and winter when this food is not available, their
staple diet is dried vegetation and the young bark
of woody plants
During a rainy period, they eat sprouting green plants
. During the
rest of the year, they eat the twigs
and barks of mesquite, catclaw,
rabbitbrush and other shrubs
. Because cattle compete with the jackrabbits
for the green forage
, one might think that a heavy cattle stocking
rate would drive out the rabbits. Not so, because the rabbits are
on the green forage.
They forage for food from dawn and through the night, consuming large quantities relative to their size.. Black-tailed jackrabbits do not require much water and obtain nearly all they need from the plant material they consume. Those living in the desert obtain most of their moisture from water-retaining plants such as cacti.
Black-tailed jackrabbits eat their own droppings to obtain the vitamins and fatty acids necessary to their well-being. Unlike most other mammals, they produce two types of pellets, one of which, cecotropes, is re-digested. Cecotropes are produced in a portion of the animal’s digestive track called the cecum and are eaten as they emerge from the anus. Bacteria and fungi in the hare’s cecum are the source of the essential nutrients the jackrabbits cannot produce but need and acquire as a result of the second digestion .
Land that is overgrazed by cattle usually loses its perennial grasses. The grasses are replaced by mesquite and cactus, which jackrabbits eat handily. If anything, overgrazing by livestock stimulates black-tailed jackrabbit population growth.
These jackrabbits reach sexual maturity in the breeding season
their birth. Mating takes place year round
and is preceded by courtship
activities that include both sexes leaping and chasing after and
behaving aggressively toward each other. Each year from one to six
(usually three to four) litters
. Because the leverets
(young rabbits) are active
at birth, elaborate
not built. Birth takes place on the bare ground
or in a grass
called a form among grass or under low shrubs
The doe (female) obtains the fur from her breast.
After a gestation of 41-47 days one to six (usually four) leverets are born. At birth they weigh about 100 gm (3.5 oz ) and are open-eyed, well-furred, and active. The doe may move each of them to separate areas to protect the entire litter from being predated at one time. Also as a protective measure, she keeps her distance from her young, visiting only once or twice a day for 10 minutes at a time to nurse them. At 10 days of age the young begin to take solid food and they become independent when a month old.
Black-tailed jackrabbits spends most of their day resting in shallow, body-sized depressions that they scratch in the ground at the base of shrubs or clumps of shaded tall grass to get protection from the summer’s hot sun and winter’s chilling winds. They maintain trails between their resting and feeding areas. Although usually most active from dusk to late in the night, no matter the time of day, they always seem to be on guard and alert for potential predators in the area. Remaining still, they may move their ears to catch sounds . Attacked by a predator, they defend themselves by kicking with their hind feet, biting, and shrieking loudly. They alert other jackrabbits in the area to potential danger by flashing the white underside of their tail and thumping their hind feet to give a danger signal.
Jackrabbits may live to be six to eight years old; however, they
are regularly hunted by large birds of prey
such as eagles and hawks,
foxes, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, weasels, and humans.
Coyotes and golden eagles are the jackrabbit’s primary predators . In some instances, increased predation on livestock can be directly tied to low rabbit numbers.
What keeps us from being kneedeep in jackrabbits? Disease and predators certainly help hold the line . Jackrabbits are susceptible to tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever.” This bacterial disease occasionally decimates the jackrabbit population, which can take several years to rebuild.
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Goodrich, 1930
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Rowe, 1988) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- (Wible et al., 1995) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- McKenna, 1975
- McKenna, 1975
- McKenna, 1975
- (McKenna, 1975) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- (Parker & Haswell, 1897) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- (Owen, 1837) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- (Mckenna, 1975) M.c. Mckenna & S.k. Bell, 1997
- (McKenna, 1975) McKenna, in Stucky & McKenna, in Benton, ed., 1993
- (Szalay & McKenna, 1971) McKenna, 1975
- Mirorder: Duplicidentata () - (Illiger, 1811) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Grandorder: Anagalida () - (Szalay & McKenna, 1971) McKenna, 1975
- Superorder: Preptotheria () - (McKenna, 1975) McKenna, in Stucky & McKenna, in Benton, ed., 1993
- Magnorder: Epitheria () - (Mckenna, 1975) M.c. Mckenna & S.k. Bell, 1997
- Cohort: Placentalia () - (Owen, 1837) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Supercohort: Theria () - (Parker & Haswell, 1897) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Infralegion: Tribosphenida () - (McKenna, 1975) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Sublegion: Zatheria () - McKenna, 1975
- Legion: Cladotheria () - McKenna, 1975
- Superlegion: Trechnotheria () - McKenna, 1975
- Infraclass: Holotheria () - (Wible et al., 1995) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Subclass: Theriiformes () - (Rowe, 1988) M.C. McKenna & S.K. Bell, 1997
- Class: Mammalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758
- Superclass: Tetrapoda () - Goodrich, 1930
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Lepus californica • Lepus californica Gray • Lepus californica Gray, 1837.
Status: Accepted Name
Last scrutiny: 15-Aug-2007
There are 17 subspecies recognized: Lepus californicus altamirae, L. c. asellus, L. c. bennettii, L. c. californicus, L. c. curti, L. c. deserticola, L. c. eremicus, L. c. festinus, L. c. magdalenae, L. c. martrensis, L. c. melanotis, L. c. merriami, L. c. richardsonii, L. c. sheldoni, L. c. texianus, L. c. wallawalla, and L. c. xanti (Hall 1981)..
Members of the genus Lepus
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 58 species and subspecies in this genus:
L. alleni (Antelope Jack Rabbit) · L. alleni alleni (Antelope Jack Rabbit) · L. americanus (Snowshoe Rabbit) · L. americanus americanus (Snowshoe Hare) · L. americanus klamathensis (Snowshoe Hare) · L. americanus seclusus (Bighorn Mountain Snowshoe Hare) · L. americanus tahoensis (Sierra Nevada Snowshoe Hare) · L. americanus washingtonii (Washington Snowshoe Hare) · L. arcticus (Arctic Hare) · L. arcticus arcticus (Arctic Hare) · L. brachyurus (Japanese Hare) · L. brachyurus brachyurus (Japanese Hare) · L. californica (Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit) · L. californicus (Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit) · L. californicus bennettii (Black-Tailed Jackrabbit) · L. californicus californicus (Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit) · L. callotis (Beautiful-Eared Jack Rabbit) · L. callotis callotis (Beautiful-Eared Jack Rabbit) · L. callotis gaillardi (White-Sided Jackrabbit) · L. capensis (European Hare) · L. capensis capensis (Brown Hare) · L. castroviejoi (Broom Hare) · L. comus (Yunnan Hare) · L. coreanus (Korean Hare) · L. corsicanus (APPENINE HARE) · L. europaeus (European Brown Hare) · L. fagani (Ethiopian Hare) · L. flavigularis (Tehuantepec Jack Rabbit) · L. granatensis (Iberian Hare) · L. granatensis granatensis (Granada Hare) · L. habessinicus (Abyssinian Hare) · L. hainanus (Chinese Pinyin) · L. insularis (Espiritu Santo Jackrabbit) · L. mandshuricus (Manchurian Hare) · L. microtis (African Savanna Hare) · L. nigricollis (Black-Napped Hare) · L. nigricollis nigricollis (Indian Hare) · L. oiostolus (Woolly Hare) · L. oiostolus oiostolus (Woolly Hare) · L. oistolus (Woolly Hare) · L. othus (Beringian Hare) · L. othus othus (Alaskan Hare) · L. peguensis (Siamese Hare) · L. saxatilis (Savannah Hare) · L. saxatilis saxatilis (Scrub Hare) · L. sinensis (Chinese Hare) · L. sinensis sinensis (Chinese Hare) · L. starcki (Ethiopian Highland Hare) · L. tibetanus (Desert Hare) · L. timidus (Eurasian Arctic Hare) · L. timidus timidus (Arctic Hare) · L. tolai (Tolai Hare) · L. townsendi (White-Tailed Jack Rabbit) · L. townsendii (White-Tailed Jack Rabbit) · L. townsendii campanius (White-Tailed Jackrabbit) · L. townsendii townsendii (Western White-Tailed Jackrabbit) · L. victoriae (African Savanna Hare) · L. yarkandensis (Yarkland Hare)
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Accessed through GBIF Data Portal March 02, 2008:
- Burke Museum: Mammal Specimens
- Comisión nacional para el conocimiento y uso de la biodiversidad: Colección de Mamíferos de la Sierra Volcánica Transversal de México (UAM-I)
- Comisión nacional para el conocimiento y uso de la biodiversidad: Colección de Mamíferos de Nuevo León, México (UANL)
- Field Museum: Mammal specimens
- Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History: Vertebrate specimens
- Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science: Mammal specimens
- Marine Science Institute, UCSB: Paleobiology Database
- Museum of Texas Tech University (TTU): Mammal specimens
- Museum of Vertebrate Zoology: Terrestrial vertebrate specimens
- Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Santa Barbara Musem of Natural History
- Sternberg Museum of Natural History: Mammal Collection
- University of Alaska Museum of the North: University of New Mexico Museum of Southwestern Biology Mammal Collection
- University of Colorado Museum: Zoological specimens
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ): Mammal specimens
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 107245
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: ITS-727828
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 180115
- IUCN ID: 219149
- Natural Heritage Network Species Identifier: AMAEB03050
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 16745
- Mean = 926.900 meters (3,041.011 feet), Standard Deviation = 551.590 based on 205 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
- Mexican Association for Conservation and Study of Lagomorphs (AMCELA), Romero Malpica, F.J. & Rangel Cordero, H. 2008. Lepus californicus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 01 February 2012. [back]
- New Mexico Wildlife. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Version of April 24, 2009. [back]