Arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) resemble rabbits, but they have shorter ears, and they are much larger. Most importantly, they can survive the cold weather of the Arctic tundra where a rabbit could not live.
Shorter ears cause less heat-loss. Arctic hares also have more fat than a rabbit. Their 20% body fat provides insulation. Their thick fur also insulates them from the cold. The fur is white for camouflage during winter when the ground is snow-covered. In areas of the far north where the summers are very short, the Arctic hare’s fur remains white. In more moderate areas such as Labrador and Newfoundland, they molt to grow new fur that is brown or gray in the summer.
Arctic hares have more than camouflage and protection from the cold to help them survive in the hostile Arctic tundra. They can also run fast–up to 40 miles per hour (60 k/hr). They need that kind of speed to outrun their greatest predator, the Arctic wolf.
Arctic tundra is an area where the cold temperatures and short growing seasons prevent the growth of trees. Arctic hares are herbivores, and they eat the small shrubs, grasses, moss, and lichens that grow there. In the warmer months and the more temperate areas of their range, they have a wider variety of plants for their diet.
Arctic hares have the right design for the cold. They are one more piece of the wonderful web of life that God has created for this planet.
© Roland Earnst