With fluffy coats and comically large feet these adorable creatures use the very things that make them so cute to survive in some of the toughest environments in the world. Snowshoe hares thrive all winter long as far north as the Arctic ocean and throughout the northern regions of all the provinces of Canada.
The snowshoe hare doesn’t mind you mentioning its shoe size! They get their name from their large hind feet. Long and wide, these feet work the way human snowshoes do, allowing the hare to travel over snow. Their feet are furred on the bottom as well to keep them warm.
Those super-feet are also attached to some very strong back legs. Hares can jump as far as 3 meters at a time and can move as fast as 45 kilometers an hour. Considering they’re only about 48 to 67 centimeters long that’s pretty impressive.
The snowshoe hare is usually pictured as having snow-white fur with black-tipped ears – but that’s just its winter look. The snowshoe hare changes colour with the seasons, the white fur turning reddish or grayish brown for the summer. The hare’s fur makes it almost impossible for predators to find it. In the winter the hare matches the snow, in the summer brown fur blends in with the forest floor and bushes.
Their stylish coats also keep them warm. It’s made up of different layers – silky soft fur for insulation, a medium layer of thicker hair, and then long, coarse outer hair that sheds. It all makes for a very comfortable bunny, which is why, unlike so many other animals, they don’t need to hibernate or travel to warmer areas when winter strikes.
Even though they’re all about the winter sports, the snowshoe hare can put their big feet to good use swimming in the spring and summer. Hares are very strong swimmers, jumping into ponds and streams to get to food or escape a predator.
Snowshoe hares are herbivores, which means they love plants and berries. But come winter hares can’t be too picky about what they eat. They’ll eat twigs and bark off trees and bushes, and dig through the snow to get to moss and lichen. Yum! They even chomp down on pine needles, which are probably not something you want to get stuck in your teeth.
Hares and rabbits look alike but they’re more like cousins than brothers and sisters. Hares are bigger in size, and while rabbits dig underground dens and warrens to live in, the snowshoe hare spends all its time aboveground, sleeping under bushes or roots. Baby rabbits are pretty helpless when they’re born – they don’t have fur and their eyes are shut – but hares are born with their eyes open and a furry coat. Within a few hours of being born baby snowshoe hares are ready to put those amazing feet to use and start hopping.