Jackrabbit Joy


Every morning the jackrabbit comes to visit. There are many remarkable aspects to a jackrabbit, but the one I like most is not in any of the research.


Technically the jackrabbit is not a rabbit, they’re a hare. Our northern California species, black-tailed jackrabbit, Lepus californicus, is the most widely distributed jackrabbit in North America (map below).


They like open grasslands and the chaparral terrain of the western U.S. and Mexico; and stay here year-round, eating grass and other ground plants. I’ve read they are nocturnal animals, but I see my visitor every morning; our critter cam captures them here day and night.


Unlike rabbits, hares have their young in a shallow depression, not burrows; and when hare babies (leverets) are born, they are in full fur, not furless like baby rabbits. One or two days after birth, hares are independent. Wikipedia info.

With many predators (fox, coyote, bobcat, and mountain lion to name a few), the jackrabbit is all about speed. Their quickness is attributed to the powerful rear legs. They can reach speeds of up to 40 mph (64 kph).


When I come upon one while driving on the narrow back roads, I know it might be awhile before he or she gets off the road. They run in a zig-zag pattern, to distract and divert their predator. Unfortunately they think the car is a predator. So they run and run, zig-zagging along the one-lane road, and we go like this for several minutes before he finally ducks into the brush.


My favorite thing about the jackrabbits are their long ears–they twitch and move with every sound; constantly assessing the danger.


Sometimes the jackrabbit goes into a torpor, a sort of sleep with eyes open; they just sit upright and take a half-snooze, look wide awake. How can I tell they’re asleep when the eyes are open? The ears aren’t twitching.

Checking out the water source

It’s the hare’s long ears that gave them the confusing name of jackrabbit. Mark Twain said, in Roughing It, “…[the jackass rabbit] has the most preposterous ears that ever were mounted on any creature but the jackass.” Sometime after this publication in 1872, the term “jackass rabbit” shortened to “jackrabbit.”


With all these curious features and talents, there is one more thing I find truly wonderful about the jackrabbit.


When the sunshine is behind this soft, furry speedster, and he is still for a moment, those glorious pink ears light up, glowing with rosy life, revealing vulnerability and vitality too.

Drinking water


Photo credit: Athena Alexander and critter cam

Black-tailed jackrabbit, Lepus californicus, range. Courtesy Wikipedia.




83 thoughts on “Jackrabbit Joy

  1. Jet I learn something every time I visit. We have a jackrabbit, I had no idea how they got their name, that lives in our yard in inner city Calgary. Well all right maybe he just visits but often sits on the front lawn a great deal of the day. When we come home he is often evading us zig zagging down the alley. Thank you for that information too. Now I won’t think he is completely daft. By your map it seems we may have a different breed here? Love the photos but especially those pink back lit ears. I’ve never witnessed that with our bunny and so grateful to have seen it here.

    • I love it that your jackrabbit has given you the zig-zag, too, Sue. No matter how much of a hurry you’re in, all you can do is smile at the absurdity. Makes them even more endearing. Where you live the jackrabbit species is the white-tailed jackrabbit, and they frequent city and suburban parks. I hope sometime you get to see your friend with the sun shining behind. Until then, I’m glad to have given you the information, and I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed them. My thanks and appreciation, Sue, as always.

  2. They are so cute! I see them here in Red Rock Canyon occasionally. A few days ago I was in RRC and a baby rabbit ran on the road in front of me. Brakes! It sat there for a few seconds then darted back in the bush. So tiny!

  3. Thank you, Jet for introducing Jackrabbit to us. They look so cute with long ears. 🙂 I’m sure I have seen them and thought they were rabbits. 🙂 🙂
    Adorable photos!

    • A true joy to share this beautiful creature with you, Amy. Now the next time you see a rabbit, you’ll know a little bit more about this charming beauty. Thanks so much.

  4. What a lovely and informative post, Jet! I had no idea about the origin of their name 🙂 The pink ears glowing in sunlight are charming!

    • I like that origin of the name tidbit, too, Helen. And I like thinking about Mark Twain and over a century of jackrabbit observations before him and since. Thank you for your visit today~~

    • How nice to receive your comment, Iris. Some years we have more jackrabbits than others, due to many various natural cycles; this year we have more due to the plentiful winter rains. I am having so much fun watching the jackrabbits this year, and am happy to share them with you, Iris. My thanks for your warm visit~~

    • I think that’s a fun little background on the word “jackrabbit,” and am glad you liked it too, GP. And you’re right…leave it to Twain! Warm smiles to you~~

  5. You are a wealth of knowledge, Jet — and Athena’s photos add so much to your posts. I couldn’t have pictured “those glorious pink ears light[ing] up, glowing with rosy life, revealing vulnerability and vitality too.” Have a rosy weekend, dearies.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Tom, it made me lol, and I’m still smiling. I love it when the jackrabbits visit, and I could watch those unusual ears forever. Have a fun weekend, and no fainting. 😉

  6. Jet, how interesting! you have a wealth of information to things I take for granted. thank you so much for sharing! we just saw a rabbit or hare? at mallard lake the other day! I will see them differently from now on. thank you again! 🙂

    • This is interesting, Jan, for you are on the other side of the Bay Area, but I guess they are only out in desolate areas. Always a treat to hear from you, thank you.

  7. Joy indeed – another wonderful post, this was fun to see and read! They are irresistible, and Athena’s photographs caught them in all their twitchy splendour.
    Almost every morning a jackrabbit will cross my path on the way to work, and it always raises a smile. Didn’t know Mark Twain’s part in the name, so thanks for that!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • How wonderful for you to have a regular morning visit from the jackrabbit on your walk to work, pc. I, too, get a smile when one shows up in the morning. This morning I had the rare greeting of two outside my window, two smiles. I hope your weekend is filled with smiles, my friend~~

  8. What a delightful summation of jackrabbit lore and information. But I have to ask — have our Texas jackalopes made it that far west?
    When I moved to Texas, I was told of one sure way to spot a jackrabbit: look at the fenceposts. Legend has it that they like to hang out in the post’s shadow during the heat of the day. I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but I look anyway.

    • No jackalopes have made their way to California, but I’m sure it’s in somebody’s head that they have. ha. Enjoyed your fencepost quest, shoreacres, and your visit, thank you.

  9. WE don’t have the Jackrabbits in our side of the USA. Bunnies in general are good looking mammals, very likable animals. Good post my friend! 🙂

    • I’m glad you liked the jackrabbits of the west, HJ. I’ve seen plenty of cottontails in the eastern part of the country, and they are indeed so adorable. My thanks for your visit, always a delight. 🙂

  10. I love jackrabbits. We used to get them by the dozens in our Nevada yard. In winter there would be nearly a hundred. One winter they chewed down two of my trees like a beaver would. Despite all that, you have to respect something that thrives in such a tough environment. They cover a lot of different habitat too, so they’re adaptable.

    • This is a great jackrabbit story, Craig. Nearly a hundred, and so industrious they chewed down two trees. And you still like them, that’s what makes me smile as I type. We used to have an elaborate fountain for the birds, and the rabbits just chewed all the wires, repeatedly, so we don’t have that kind of thing anymore, and that’s fine…I’d rather have the jackrabbits. Thanks for this great story and reverent rabbit attitude.

  11. Wonderful photos and information, especially the glowing ears and Mark Twain tidbit! We had two rabbits visit this morning and they have decided again this year to make their nest in the yard. I would love to see a jackrabbit and those wonderful ears, but until then I appreciate the opportunity to see those adorable ears on your blog!🙂

    • Oh ACI, I am so happy to hear you have two rabbits who’ll be nesting in your yard. I’m sure you and Gabby will have a great adventure with them. Thanks so much for your visit, it was a joy to share the jackrabbit (I call them all “Jack”) with you.

  12. The photo of their illuminated ears is really something. Wonderful!
    You and Alexander must have a lot of fun viewing the critter cam and finding unexpected gems 🙂

    • We do have loads of fun with the critter cam. We bought it about 7 or 8 yrs. ago, and have used it for animal mysteries (who’s eating the Halloween gourds out in the yard?), as well as viewing all the creatures who visit. We get regular bobcat, fox, deer, rabbits of course, occasional coyote and skunk, and a number of smaller mammals and ground birds. And who ate the gourds? A clever woodrat. My thanks, Gail.

  13. You brought back memories of our night camping at the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I managed to catch pictures of both a cute little cottontail and a jackrabbit as we hiked around the campground. The birds were a bit sparse during that stay since we happened to be there just after hunting season. I’m STILL shocked that they allow hunting at a National Wildlife Refuge!

    I also remember driving across the Nevada desert in days (actually nights) long past with the jackrabbits darting across the road. I used to call them kamikaze rabbits since they seemed to wait by the side of the road and then dart out right in front of the car. It was pretty impossible to avoid hitting the crazy little things… though I did try!

    • I enjoyed your jackrabbit stories, Gunta, and they truly are a memorable creature. It’s not right to have hunting on a refuge, I agree with you. My thanks for your visit and best wishes for a great week~~

  14. Good morning, Jet. Tis a wonderful thing to see a Jackrabbit or Hare as we call them on this side of the Pond. I always knew that they were remarkable creatures but having read your post, I now understand much more about them, and just how resilient they are. It strikes me that they have the same sort of back legs as the Cheetah giving strength and speed. Another element on this side of the Pond is that Hares are associated with magic and pagan beliefs. The photographs are fantastic and the one showing the light coming through the ears, very very good. I wonderful that you have a cam set up to record all these goings on. I wish you a very beautiful day and week ahead….janet 🙂

    • I liked hearing the UK version of hares, Janet, very much, and it is easy to see they would be associated with magic, for they are magical creatures. And I like your association with the cheetah, because they do have that instant speed and endurance from the powerful back legs. It is so fun to have the critter cam. We move it around on our two acres and are always discovering new things. They take the trails that are farthest from the house, ones that we thought were empty are actually popular wildlife corridors. And it’s fun to see the regulars one day show up with new young ones. I was glad to hear from you, Janet, after the upsetting recent London troubles; and I send my warmest thoughts for a week of peace. 🙂

      • Thank you so much Jet….and yes, we need peace and love so much in this world. We also have a huge general election coming up on Thursday….which is causing more division… Here’s to Mother Nature and everything she teaches us…..we can learn all we need by observing her bounty :).

  15. Beautifully written, Jet! And beautifully illustrated with photos. When you wrote “When the sunshine is behind this soft, furry speedster, and he is still for a moment, those glorious pink ears light up, glowing with rosy life, revealing vulnerability and vitality too”, I got kind of weepy. I really enjoyed the “jackrabbit love”!

    I see the white-tailed jackrabbits here. I’ve never gotten around to reading about them though. So it was interesting to learn that they can sort of sleep with their eyes open and that the little ones are born with fur.

    And I loved your first sentence too. That sentence and the attentive hare with the big ears totally reeled me in.

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Your kind and thoughtful comments were a real treat for me, Myriam. I’m delighted to bring the beauties–as well as a few facts–of the jackrabbit to you. You just made my day and it’s not even light out yet. 🙂

    • How lovely to hear from you, Iris. I’m happy you enjoyed the jackrabbit post; I learned a lot while composing it, and am always glad to share interesting wildlife info. Thank you for stopping by~~

  16. The penchant to “elude” a vehicle by keeping ahead of it is something I marvel at in hawks and egrets, too. The leapfrog can go on for quite awhile before they get the idea they could just move in another direction to escape the approaching “predator.” Then there are squirrels and prairie dogs, who are safely on the side of the road but leap out under your wheels as you pass by. What’s with that?

    • I just saw one ten minutes ago, chewing grass. There’s one individual who must spend the night nearby, because he or she is always near the house at dawn, eating. We do not leave food out for him, they like the grass and flowers. But there is always fresh and clean water in several trays, and the jackrabbits and other mammals and birds drink it. We don’t have rain here from June to November, so the water sources are animal magnets. We set up the critter cam at the water sources. Thanks so much, my friend, great question.

    • I was outside this morning at dawn and saw the jackrabbit grazing, and had the joy of seeing–only for a split second–the sun shining through his pink ears. I love them too, I’m glad you enjoyed it, Resa.

  17. The jackrabbit is NOT a rabbit, wowa! I didn’t realize this fact until I read your post here, and now I know the name reference originated with none other than Mark Twain. Oh my! My mom cannot handle how these jackrabbits snack on her garden so I will have to tread carefully around her when I mention my new knowledge of these furry creatures 😉 Great post, Jet!

    • I liked this comment, Christy; gave me a big smile. Sometimes what comes to us as great information isn’t so great to others. I’m delighted you enjoyed it and the fun tidbit about Mark Twain. Hoppy day to you!

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