The Snowshoe Hare

Yearly Cycle of Power:   Spring
Time of Power:Dawn and Dusk
Attributes: Abundance, Cyclical Change, Resurrection, Lust, Planning, Prosperity, Evasion

A Hare, that's just another name for a Rabbit, right? Not really. They are certainly related, but they have many differences. This article is on the Snowshoe Hare in particular, but attributes can range across all Hares and Jackrabbits. Hares generally have longer ears than rabbits, larger hind feet, and longer legs. The reason for these differences is simple. Rabbits tend to burrow and hide from predators, while the Hares strategy is bolder: run faster than the predator. The biggest indicator of whether the animal you are looking at is a Hare or a Rabbit is the foot size though. Its hind feet can be upwards of 6 inches long, which is very big in comparison to the size of the rest of its body. Hares tend to have black markings on their fur where rabbits do not. In this the longer legs come in handy. Hares are leporids belonging to the genus 'Lepus'. The Snowshoe Hare is about 12-20 inches long and weighs between 2-4 pounds, with the males being smaller than the females. The Snowshoe Hare is found throughout Canada and the Northern United States. In the Winter, the Snowshoe Hare is white, while in summer it has a coat that can range from rusty, to grey, to brown.

The Snowshoe Hare has the most amazing feet. Its hind legs and feet are made for speed. They are huge in relation to the rest of its body. These big legs and feet allow a Snowshoe Hare to run up to 45 km/h and jump up to 10 feet in a single bound. When they run, they zigzag this way and that to confuse the predators and sometimes even jump straight up. Other species of Hare can run up to 70 km/h Think about how small this animal is and how incredibly fast it can go and how far it can jump. It's amazing! In addition to this, in the winter, the feet get covered in stiff bristly hairs and their toes spread out allowing for them to walk on top of the snow. In essence, this is why they are called the Snowshoe Hare: Their hind feet literally become snowshoes. The large hind feet also allow the Hare to 'stand up' to get access to higher branches for food. They have amazing hair as well. They actually have two sets of follicles. One set that produces the greyish brown colours in the summer and one that produces the whites for the winter. Some think the fur actually changes colour, but it doesn't. It just loses its brown hair in the winter and gains white. I suppose you could say that its follicles are seasonally bald. The process of change takes about 72 days but it gives the Snowshoe Hare the ability to blend in with its surrounding in any season. Its senses of hearing and smell are elevated as well to alert it to the presence of predators. Its large ears are some of the best for hearing in the animal kingdom and also work to dissipate heat and regulate body temperature. Even though they have good hearing, they are not particularly vocal with one another. They may hiss or snort at each other or squeal when in pain, but generally they are quite and only communicate by thumping their feet. Perhaps it's because their hearing is so good that they remain quiet. The teeth are quite strong as well and don't stop growing. This is handy as the Hare is often gnawing at bark and wood for food. That would tend to wear down teeth like yours and mine. The Snowshoe Hare can also swim quite well. While they tend not too, they will often use water to escape a predator. The last of the Snowshoe hares special adaptations is its reproduction. We will go into t hat further in this article. But they are so prolific, that it warrants a mention here. They have so many offspring that their densities can reach 10,000 per square mile even though they generally don't live more than 1 year.

The Snowshoe Hare is a traditional Herbivore. It eats grass, clover, dandelions, berries, daisy's, etc in the summer and switch in the winter to twigs, buds, and bark of trees like aspen, spruce, fir, birch, willow, pine, maple, and alder. They will also eat needles of some trees like cedar, hemlock, pine and fir. And occasionally, they will eat the remains of other Hares. Hares are most active at Dawn and Dusk when they go foraging for food. This cannibalistic behaviour goes contrary to being a herbivore, and they wont actually kill each other for food, but I guess when the winter is long and cold, any source of food is good. They are the typical Prey as well. Just about every predator in North America is one that preys upon the Snowshoe Hare. If predators had supermarkets, Hare would always be on their shopping lists. Coyotes, Wolves, Foxes, Lynx, Bobcats, and Owls are just a few of the predators that dine on Snowshoe Hare. In fact the Hare supplies live to so many of these species that were it to disappear, these species may disappear as well. The Hare is good at evading the predators. It first goes completely still hoping to confuse them. Then it runs, in its confusing way. But still, most Hares are the victim of predation before they reach one year of age.

Snowshoe Hares live in a variety of habitats including open fields, forests, riversides, tundra, and swamps. Unlike Rabbits, they do not burrow in the ground to create their homes. They usually live in a shallow depression or nest of grass in the open. However, if they come across a burrow that another animal made, including their rabbit brethren, well its finders keepers. Wherever it dens, the Hare creates well trafficked runways in the forest floor. These look like little highways and are often used by animals other than the Hares themselves. Hares generally have a territory of about 5 - 10 acres. Hares can breed between March and August. And breed they do. They have often been observed boxing, which has been thought to be males showing their dominance. Instead, it appears, it is the female that boxes the male as a sign to say she is not in the mood. They can breed at any point in this period and can have up to four litters in that time. Males breed with multiple females and females with multiple males. There is no monogamy here. Their purpose is solely to repopulate their species for the losses taken due to predation. Honour takes a back seat to this. The females carry the young for 36 days before birthing up to 4 leverets (baby Hares). Unlike rabbits, hares are born fully furred with eyes open. They can crawl on the second day after birth, and hop on the third day. In this way they are able to fend for themselves very quickly. Only 15% of those born will live to see their first birthday. This is sad, as they reach their sexual maturity at 1. The young to not travel far from where they are born, and in general Hares are not all that social with one another.

Mythology is difficult with the Hare, simply because of the volume of it. Apparently the Hare is a favourite in the myths globally. A lot of it is common between cultures around the world. If I detailed it all here, this article would be 20 pages long at the very least. Let's start with the modern though: Easter. The Easter Bunny is a rabbit though, right? Nope, the word Bunny more correctly defines a Hare. Bugs Bunny is supposed to be a Hare as well. Where does all that Easter Myth come from though? Well, they come from the Germanic goddess Eostre. She was prevalent at this time of year and was very fond of Hares (and that she often took the form of a Hare). She was also associated with eggs and chick hatching out of them (a symbol of resurrection). In fact she changed one of her chickens into a Hare and it gave birth to magical eggs. Sound familiar? But wait, Eostre actually comes from another goddess originally: Eos/Aurora the goddess of the dawn. And you can see the hare as a symbol for the dawn as well. Think of the golden sun coming over the horizon as a hares head and those first couple of rays as his ears. In many cultures it was said to be a symbol of the moon. And you can see why with it cyclical change in colour, much as the moon changes colour. And also with its symbol of resurrection, death and rebirth, a tie to the moon can be seen. In fact, there is a symbol called 'the three hares' which has been found from Europe all the way to china of three hares circling each other, their conjoined ears making a moon image. Its a very feminine image and very lunar. Most cultures saw the Hare actually in the moon. When they looked at the light and dark patches, they could actually see the image of it there. This is another lunar tie in. In African legend, the moon sent her companion 'Hare' down to earth as a gift saying 'Just as the moon dies and rises, so shall you'. In Native American legends, the Hare is Michabo (Great Hare), god of the Dawn. In Egypt, Osiris was sometimes represented with the head of a Hare. The Hare has also been associated with Chaos. His zigzagging gait and symbol of resurrection solidify this. It was an unpredictable, lusty, and, fun loving character. Many chaos gods were associated with hares including Osiris and Dionysos. It was associated with madness which can be seen with the phrase 'Mad as a March Hare' and in the character from Alice in Wonderland. They were associated with trickery as well. Br'er Rabbit was originally a Hare. I have but scratched the surface here on Hare mythology, but already you can see the associations with goddesses and gods falling in either the Inspiration or Chaos categories. In fact, with the symbols of resurrection, etc you can see why the Christians chose to keep celebrating Easter.

The Snowshoe Hare Totem is the ultimate evader. You will never catch them off guard, or in a lie, or generally in any position they don't plan on being seen in. This is because they are planners. They will think of every possible bad outcome of every situation and plan for it. They don't assume everything will turn out fine. They assume it won't and use their planning to make certain that it does. They make superb tricksters as a side effect of this. With their tireless planning they can see certain mischievous results just as they will see beneficial results. If mischief will get them what they desire, then they will resort to trickery. But beware as the Hare Totems tricks will often be ones in which you have no defence (as he or she has planned out the possible outcomes ahead of time). There is simply no wiggle room for the Snowshoe Hare Totem. Life must be orchestrated at every possible turn. And when its not, well, they tend to get a bit upset, and in the worst of cases may end up a bit neurotic. In love, the Snowshoe Hare is mixed really. They enjoy having a partner, but that does not drive them. Monogamy may work for them in their plans, but it is really not central to them and they may stray from a marriage or relationship if it seems right, or sometimes just if the whim takes them. Their frequent excuse for these encounters will be 'I didn't plan this' which taken from their point of view means 'I couldn't stop it; I am a victim here too'. Sexually, the Hare totem is passionate if not downright lusty. The goal and commitment of the Hare Totem in relationships is more likely to be in the offspring. They will have a strong drive to produce a healthy crop of kids as this is this form of immortality. In fact, the Snowshoe Hare Totem is so focused on this form of immortality that their success in life will be internally measured by how closely their children resemble them in appearance, mannerisms, philosophy, etc. As the Snowshoe Hare is not very sexually dimorphic, so this Totem will prefer to share tasks with his or her partner. Death is not something that the Snowshoe Hare Totem fears, it is only something that needs to be put off until their goals are met. They know the inherent value in the cycle of all things and know that death places as much importance in their lives as any other portion. In the workplace, the Hare Totem will excel at jobs where they interact with the cyclical nature of things, or get to use their planning to good use. They will make excellent managers, business owners, and stock brokers given their planning. Their moves in the business world may seem odd and indiscernible at times (like the zigzag escape), but it is all part of their plan. They would make excellent farmers, doctors, and scientists as well as these fields can allow them to interact with the cycles of things. Snowshoe Hare Totems will not be all that social with others. They may give an appearance of that at any given time, but generally, this is simply to keep to their plans. They may have one or two close friends, but they are not natural social butterflies.

Written by RavenDreamer