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the web of life in southern Africa

Lepus saxatilis (Scrub hare)

kolhaas [Afrikaans]; umvundla [isiNdebele] [isiXhosa]; unogwaja [isiZulu]; mofuli [Sesotho]; modu1, modil [Setswana]; tsuro [Shona]; logwatja [siSwati]; mpfundla [Xitsonga]; muvhuda, khomu [Tshivenda]; shakame [Lozi]; unshuru [Yei] !as [Nama] [Damara]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Euarchontaglires > Glires > Lagomorpha (rabbits, hares and pikas) > Family: Leporidae (rabbits, hares)

Lepus saxatilis (Scrub hare)

Lepus saxatilis (Scrub hare), Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ]

Lepus saxatilis (Scrub hare)

Lepus saxatilis (Scrub hare), Velddrif, Western Cape. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Lepus saxatilis (Scrub hare) Lepus saxatilis (Scrub hare)

Lepus saxatilis (Scrub hare), South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ]

Baby Scrub hare. [photo Dave Scott ]


Scrub hares have a typical hare-like body shape with long ears, long well-developed hind legs and a short fluffy tail. The body hair is fine and soft, the upperparts are a brown-grey to grey colour with a black-fleck giving the coat a grizzled appearance. The underparts are white. The head is a lighter whitish or buff on the sides of the face and around the eyes. Most animals have a distinct white patch on the forehead just above the eyes. The nucal patch, situated in the nape of the neck behind the ears is a more reddish brown than the rest of the body. The tail is black above and white underneath. The females are larger and heavier than the males.


Size: Body length 45-65 cm; weight range 1.5 –4.5 kg.

Dental formula

CPM = 28

Distribution and habitat

Found throughout southern Africa, excluding the Namib Desert. It generally prefers woodland and scrub cover with grass.

General behaviour

Scrub hares are nocturnal but may be active during the early morning and the late afternoon. They occur singly unless a female is accompanied by courting males or her offspring. During the day they lie up in “forms” (shallow depressions in the ground or grass), usually concealed under bushes amongst some grass. The drab colour of the body provides good camouflage and they fold their ears flat back against their body with the head tucked in against the body. Characteristically of hares when threatened they remain motionless until the last second and then suddenly break cover and rely on their speed to escape. If caught they emit a loud squealing sound, and will kick viciously with their large back feet and bite if given the opportunity.


The diet of scrub hares consists of the leaves, rhizomes and stems of dry grass, but they have a preference for green grass.

Predator, parasites and commensals

They have many natural predators including birds of prey, caracal, jackal, and people.


Gestation is about 42 days. Females have 1-3 “leverets” per litter and may have as many as 4 litters per year. A litter of 1 – 3 “leverets” are born after a gestation period of 42 days. At birth the leverets eyes are open, they are fully haired and can move around soon after birth. The birth of young at an advanced state of development is another characteristic that separates hares from rabbits, that produce naked, blind babies in a burrow.


Although the scrub hare numbers may be low in certain areas due to hunting pressures and loss of habitat to farming and urban development, they are not regarded as threatened and their conservation status is graded as lower risk.

Text by Denise Hamerton