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Lagomorpha -- Haring Hares , romping rabbits, and pretty pikas

hare pikatiny rabbit


The name of the order Lagomorpha is derived from the Greek lagos ("hare") and morpha ("form"). This order has two families the Leporidae (hares and rabbits), and the Ochotonidae (pikas). The reader will have observed that we classify mammals by their teeth quite a bit, and by that measure, lagomorphs differ quite a bit from their rodent cousins and so are classified in a separate order.

The earliest fossil lagomorphs, such as Eurymylus, come from eastern Asia, and date to the late Paleocene or early Eocene. The ancestors of hares first appeared in the late Eocene, and rapidly(well, they do breed quickly) spread throughout the northern hemisphere; they show a trend towards increasingly long hind limbs as the modern leaping gait developed. The pikas appear somewhat later, in the Oligocene of eastern Asia.

What are they like?

They look very much like their rodent cousins on the outside but they are significantly different in some key ways. Firstly, their have 4 peg like teeth as opposed to two in roedents. Secondly, they are all entirely vegetarian whereas rodents will eat anything. The other difference relate to reproductory organs and are not relevant for our purposes here. I am going to steer away from such topics a bit aggressively, I am afraid.

Rabbits are much like rodents in the sense that they need to gnaw because their teeth are also growing all the time.

Geographic Distribution

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Rabbits are found everywhere you look these days. They were a staple food source in Britain and France once so they were exported all over the world. Some even caused havoc to local ecosystems when introduced, like the situation in Austalia.


This order has the amazing ability to breed very very quickly. One breeding pair can have between 120 to 180 babies in a year. Given the fact that female rabbits can start breeding in six months, this can have a devastating impact on any ecosystem that does not have predators dining off rabbits consistently.

Feeding Habits

Rabbits, hare and Pikas eat grass, fruit and leaves. They can sometime gnaw on scavenged meat in hard times but that is very rare indeed. One of the amazing feeding behaviors among lagomorphs is that they eat their own poo! Gross, yes but amazingly efficient for the kind of low nutrient food that they eat. Grass has not much going for it and since they can't chew the cud they make soft droppings to chew and digest later. No, they don't always eat every bit of poo, some is excreted as hard pellets, strictly not for eating. THE HUMAN READER IS ADVISED NOT TO TRY TO COPY THIS BEHAVIOR AT HOME.

Families within Lagomorpha

Leporidae (Rabbit and Hare)

Ochotonidae (Pikas)