The Indian hare (Lepus nigricollis), also known as the black-naped hare, is a common species of hare found in the Indian Subcontinent and in Java. Introduced to Madagascar, Comoro Islands, Andaman Islands, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Mayotte, Mauritius and Réunion
There are 7 recognized subspecies of Indian hare.
Individual at Bandipur National Park
Lepus nigricollis is found in southern India. These hares range as far east as Godavari and west as far as Khandesh, Berar, and Madhya Pradesh. Lepus nigricollis are also native to Sri Lanka. They have been introduced into Java, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
(Grzimek, 1975; Kirk and Racey, 1992; Prater, 1965)
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Lepus nigricollis are also called black-naped hares due to the patch of black fur that runs along the nape of the neck. The top of the tail is also black and the back and face are brown with black hairs scattered throughout. The underparts are white. Total length ranges from 40 to 70 cm and weight ranges from 1.35 to 7 kg.
Like all hares, they have long ears and large hind feet which are well furred. There is some evidence that hares that have been introduced to islands are smaller than those in mainland India. Regardless of location, female L. nigricollis tend to be larger than males.
(Kirk and Bathe, 1994; Prakash and Taneja, 1969; Prater, 1965; Nowak, 1995)
Range mass: 1.35 to 7 kg.
Average mass: 4.17 kg.
Range length: 40 to 70 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Lepus nigricollis are generally found in areas where large tracts of bush and jungle alternate with farmland. They are also commonly sighted in coastal herb communities. Hilly areas, particularly the depressions at the base of hills, are preferred habitats for L. nigricollis.
(Prater, 1965; Kirk and Racey, 1992)
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Lepus nigricollis is herbivorous, though the types of vegetation it eats varies. Many of the areas these animals inhabit have wet and dry seasons and these play a large role in food availability. During the wet season, short grasses are abundant and they are the preferred food. During the dry season, when short grasses are scarce, more flowering plants are consumed. They also eat crops and germinating seeds. Like all hares, L. nigricollis practices coprophagy.
(DeBlase and Martin, 1981; Krik and Racey, 1992; Nowak, 1995)
Plant Foods: leaves
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore ); coprophage
In many places, L. nigricollis are considered pests because of the damage they can do to young trees and to crops. On the island of Cousin, in the Seychilles chain, they have had an extreme impact on trees used by rare, endemic bird species. There are ongoing studies to determine the best way to deal with their impact.
Lepus nigricollis are also important prey for many carnivores. One study found them to be the second most commonly consumed species by wolves in the Velavadar National Park in Gujarat, India. Lepus nigricollis are also eaten by leopard and dhole, though they only make up around 1.3% of their diet.
(Karanth and Sunquist, 1995; Kirk and Racey, 1992; Jhala, 1993; Prater, 1965)
Lepus nigricollis depends on strong running abilities to avoid predators, but if necessary, will find shelter in a cave or hollow tree.
Predators include Canids (foxes, wolves, dhole), Herpestids (mongeese), Felids (leopards and wild cats), humans, eagles and hawks.
(Grzimek, 1975; Karanth and Sunquist, 1995; Nowak, 1995)
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Longevity in L. nigricollis is unknown but other hare species tend to live 5 years in the wild and up to 7 years in captivity.
During mating season, male L. nigricollis become aggressive, sparring with other males using their forepaws and "boxing" with their hind feet. Males will attempt to mate with as many females as they can.
Mating System: polygynous
Reproduction rates tend to be at their highest during the wet season, though L. nigricollis will generally breed year round. The increased rate of reproduction is likely the result of an increase in nutrient rich foods. On average, 69% of adult females are pregnant every year. In L. nigricollis dayanus, a subspecies of Indian hare, reproduction is also dependent on the length of the day. One to eight young are born after a gestation period of 41 to 47 days. Sexual maturity occurs in the year following birth.
(Prakash and Taneja, 1969)
Breeding season: Breeding occurs year round but is highest between October and February.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.
Average number of offspring: 1.84.
Range gestation period: 42 to 44 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Young L. nigricollis, called leverets, are precocial at birth. They are born well furred and with open eyes. The female gives birth in a "form", or hollow made in the grass. She will hide her young in dense vegetation and visit them for nursing, which lasts 2 to 3 weeks. Young hares are odorless and will remain very still while hidden. They will usually not breed until they are at least 1 year old.
(DeBlase and Martin, 1981; Grzimek, 1975; Nowak, 1995)
Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care
L. nigricollis are locally abundant and are not currently a conservation concern.
US Migratory Bird Act: no special status
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Lepus nigricollis can destroy crops and young trees if other food sources are scarce. This can be especially devastating on islands to which they have been introduced. They also tend to be plentiful and can be a nuisance in areas where people are found.
(Kirk and Racey, 1992; Prater, 1965)
Negative Impacts: crop pest
While the fur of L. nigricollis is not very durable, it is used to make felt and to line gloves. Lepus nigricollis is also eaten by native peoples. It was introduced to the Seychelles to provide food for plantation workers.
(Kirk and Racey, 1992; Prater, 1965)
Positive Impacts: food