All hares and rabbits belong to the Leporidae family, which comprises all recognizably rabbitlike animals—i.e., the small mammals with long ears, short tails, strong hind legs, and a hopping gait. Within the family Leporidae, some animals with certain characteristics are conventionally called rabbits, and others with other characteristics are conventionally called hares. But rabbit and hare are not scientific terms.
Here are a few of the differences:
- Hares are generally larger.
- Rabbits tend to live in belowground burrows. Hares live in ground-level nests or depressions.
- Rabbits are born hairless, blind, and defenseless. Hares are born with fur, open eyes, and the ability to move around.
- Rabbits are more social, often living in groups. Hares are more solitary.
- Hares have not been domesticated. Many types of rabbits are kept as pets.
For each of these differences, there are exceptions. For example, cottontail rabbits live aboveground, and there are a few species of hares that are smaller than most species of rabbits. And to further complicate matters, jackrabbits tend to be more closely related to hares than to rabbits.