Jackrabbit: Breed Info, Facts, Lifespan and More

Last Updated on May 30, 2023 by Talha

Have you ever heard of jackrabbits? They are one of the most well-known members of the shrub-steppe community. 

Jackrabbits are curious creatures that usually live in American deserts, scrublands, pastures, and other open spaces like farmlands. 

Best known for their large ears, these animals were first introduced to the American public’s attention when famous author Mark Twain.

Jackrabbit or Jack rabbit?

He referred to one as a “jackass rabbit” in “Roughing It,” his 1872 western adventure book. In the book, Twain wrote that the animals had “the most preposterous ears that were ever mounted on any creature but a jackass.” 

Since then, the label has been shortened to “jackrabbit, ” which these animals are now commonly known as. 

If you’re curious to know more about these equally curious animals, then this article will shed light on some facts about jackrabbits, such as what they look like, their breeding info, lifespan, gestation, and so much more. 

Are Jackrabbits Also Rabbits? 

While Twain first referred to them as “jackrabbits,” these animals are not rabbits at all! Belonging to the family Leporidae, jackrabbits are a type of hare. There are currently six species of them that can be found running all over central and western parts of America. These species include: 

  • Antelope jackrabbit 
  • Black-tailed jackrabbit 
  • White-sided jackrabbit 
  • Tehuantepec jackrabbit 
  • Black jackrabbit
  • White-tailed jackrabbit 

Usually, jackrabbits are relatively large, but it all depends on the type of species. Out of all of them, the white-tailed jackrabbit is easily the biggest, with many weighing nearly 10 pounds and measuring over two feet long.

Jackrabbit colors and shape also depend on the species, but they are generally tan, black, brown, silver, or grey. They are also famous for their enormous ears, with some species having ears that reach over six inches long. Typically, jackrabbits use them to hear well and as a body regulating adaptation that allows them to cool down in hotter temperatures.

Jackrabbits have long ears

Jackrabbits also sport powerful rear legs, which they use to reach speeds of up to 40mph. When threatened, they can also leap up to 10-20 ft., much taller than the average person! 

Finally, jackrabbits have a double row of upper incisors with small, secondary teeth found behind the main incisors. Unique to both rabbits and hares, these teeth never stop growing, so these animals often have to chew on vegetation to wear them down constantly. 

Jackrabbit Habitat and Diet 

As mentioned above, jackrabbits often live in fields, open grasslands, farms, pastures, wastelands, and deserts. Actually, the black-tailed jackrabbit is locally known as the American desert hare, as they can be found leaping in all four of the deserts in North America. 

Jackrabbits are also herbivores, and their diet usually includes grass, sagebrush, cacti, and various types of grains found in their habitat. Unfortunately, they can also quickly destroy crops, so many people consider these animals as pests.

Of course, their diet also changes based on the season, as some plants become harder to find during winter. Jackrabbits also feed on plants with high water/moisture content. Jackrabbits are also shrub-steppe animals, meaning they can eat different kinds of vegetation because they digest their food twice.

How do Jackrabbits Live? 

As nocturnal creatures, jackrabbits come alive during the night, where you can find them zigzagging in the underbrush. During the day, however, they typically rest in shrubs or shallow for cover. 

They also crouch and lay their ears flat on their backs, which helps them cool down and lessen their chances of being spotted by natural predators like coyotes, wolves, and eagles.

They are also obligate sagebrush species, which means that they need sagebrush to live. They depend on these for both protective cover and food. 

How do Jackrabbits Mate and Breed? 

While jackrabbits are solitary animals that survive alone, these animals mate multiple times a year, with females having between four and six litters throughout. Jackrabbits breed throughout the year in temperate climates, while those in colder areas breed between December and September. 

When it comes to gestation, the period is around 40 days. The litter size also depends on the type of species. 

Unlike rabbits, hares like jackrabbits give birth to babies that already have hair and open eyes. Mother jackrabbits also place each baby in a different hiding place to keep them safe from predators.

Unlike rabbits, mother jackrabbits only nurse their babies a few times each day for about two to three days. Afterward, they no longer get the care and become independent when they are a month old. 

Jackrabbit Life Cycle

Black-tailed Jack Rabbit
Source: thoughtco.com

A jackrabbit’s life cycle is a pretty wild one. 

As mentioned above, young jackrabbits (called leverets) become fully independent about a month after birth. For the first two to three weeks, they stay in their hiding places and only eat nearby greens. 

At around 21 days old, they will start to forage for food in the evenings. It’s also during this time that juvenile jackrabbits start rapidly growing. 

If they survive, jackrabbits reach their full adult size between eight and 12 months, depending on the species. This is also the time when jackrabbits become sexually mature. 

Females often wait until the next breeding season to start mating, meaning that they’re usually at least a year old before they have their first litter. 

While a jackrabbit can live up to eight years, its average lifespan in the wild is around five or six years. 

Do Jackrabbits Make Good Pets?

Unfortunately, no. While you can mistake them for rabbits, jackrabbits have never been domesticated and are wild animals that are unpredictable and vulnerable to disease. 

Still, you don’t need to be able to pet them to appreciate how fascinating jackrabbits are.

Apart from those 6 fascinating jackrabbit species, there are numerous other types of rabbits found worldwide. From the adorable Netherland Dwarf to the majestic Flemish Giant, the world of rabbits is incredibly diverse, with over 50 recognized rabbit breeds. Each breed has its own unique characteristics, appearance, and temperament, making them captivating companions or show animals.

With that, I hope you learned something new or picked up valuable insight about these animals through this blog post.