2023 Is The Year of the Rabbit

An Eastern Cottontail
An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) stands on a rocky road and takes a look around.
Photo by Carol Hamilton / Getty Images

Canadians and millions of people worldwide will celebrate the Lunar New Year on January 22, 2023. This day marks the beginning of a new year in the lunisolar calendar (which is based on moon cycles). Numerous Asian cultures associate traditional Zodiac signs with the years of the lunisolar calendar; 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit.

The Fur-Bearers encourage supporters to learn more about the Lunar New Year, the many cultures who celebrate it, and how to celebrate locally. Check out local cultural centres, municipal events pages, or your local library for more!

As part of our celebrations, The Fur-Bearers will be sharing content throughout the lunar year on rabbits, starting with a breakdown of the species who call Canada home.

Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare)

A snowshoe hare
A Snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) showing off their big back feet.
Photo by impr2003 / Getty Images

My, what big feet you have! Snowshoe hares have distinctly large hind feet, which allow them to remain on top of snow and prevent sinking during walking or hopping. Their coats change from a rusty brown in summer to a snowy white in winter – making it harder for predators to locate them. Snowshoe hares weigh 1 to 2 kg (2.2 to 4.4 lbs) and are about 0.5 metres (1.6 feet) long. At home in boreal forests, snowshoe hares can be found from coast to coast in Canada, even in northern Quebec, Yukon, and Northwest Territories!

DID YOU KNOW: Snowshoe hares can jump as far as 3 m (6 times their length!) at once and reach speeds as high as 45 km per hour (28 mph).

Lepus arcticus (Arctic Hare)

An arctic hare
An Arctic Hare (Lepus arcticus) jaunts past rocks on the tundra.
Photo by Nicholas_Dale / Getty Images

Arctic hares aren’t just the largest hares in North America, they’re also the hardcore survivalist of the Lepus genus: they live in windswept tundras, on rocky plateaus, and along treeless coast. Animal Diversity Web notes that L. arcticus’ preferred habitat has an average daily temperature from March to November of -26.9°C (-16.4° F). Arctic hares weigh 3 to 5 kg (6.6 to 11 lbs) and are an average length of 55.8 cm (22”). A thick patch of grey fur on their chest and underbelly is present year-round, and a brownish-grey coat is molted through summer. Their winter coats are long, thick, and soft white fur, with black tipping on their ears.

DID YOU KNOW: Unlike the Snowshoe hare, Artic hares require limited snow cover so they can find the staples of their diet through the year: mostly woody plants, mosses, sedges, and berries. Their long front teeth help pull such foods from under rocks!

Lepus townsendii (White-tailed jackrabbit)

A White-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) sitting cautiously in grass.
Photo by Irina Babina / Getty Images

White-tailed jackrabbits live in a narrow range in Canada, from the eastern parts of the Rocky Mountains, through the southern parts of the plains (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) and dipping slightly into southwestern Ontario. However, their range is much more extensive into the United States. L. townsendii are solitary hares, only gathering briefly during the breeding season. Their weight ranges from 3 to 4 kg (6.6 to 8.8 lbs) and have an average length of 66 centimetres (25”). There are two subspecies described: L. townsendii townsendii (west of the Rocky Mountains) and L. townsendii campanius (east of the Rocky Mountains).

DID YOU KNOW: Those big ears are helpful in hearing, but they’re also a great method to cool off in warmer seasons! The large ears allow large volumes of blood to move through – and dissipate – without any obnoxious underarm sweat stains.

Sylvilagus floridanus (Eastern Cottontail)

An Eastern Cottontail
An Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) sits patiently in grass.
Photo by mirceax / Getty Images

When you think ‘wild rabbit’ the Eastern cottontail is likely who comes to mind. Found across more of North (and South) America than any other member of the Sylvilagus genus, S. floridanus is an open-grass-loving rabbit common in backyards, parks, and other human-altered landscapes. With a reddish-brown to grey-brown coat and lighter underbelly, Eastern cottontails’ weights range from 800 g to 2 kg (1.8 to 4.4 lbs.), averaging about 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs.). Their length measures from 36 to 48 cm (14” to 19”), but their size varies across regions, growing larger the further north they are, as per Bergmann’s rule (the tendency of animals to be larger in more northern regions).

DID YOU KNOW: Eastern cottontails rely on having woody cover nearby – without it, their ability to forage safely and escape from predators is severely hampered. This is often why turf-covered backyards, gardens, and parks are common locations to see S. floridanus.

Sylvilagus nuttallii (Mountain/Nuttall’s Cottontail)

A Mountain Cottontail
A Mountain/Nuttall's Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii) rests in grasses of Alberta.
Photo by Georgewinstonlee / Getty Images

The Mountain (or Nuttall’s) cottontail has the smallest range in Canada, being found in limited areas of southern British Columbia, Alberta (east of the Rocky Mountains) and Saskatchewan. Their primary range is through the western United States. The species is broken into three subspecies, based on geographic range. S. nuttallii nuttalii finds their home in the British Columbia portion of range; S. nuttallii granger is found in Alberta and Saskatchewan; the third subspecies, S. nuttallii pinetis, is only found in the United States. Mountain cottontails have a greyish brown coat, with a white underbelly. Their tail is dark on top and below underneath, with a single annual molt. Their length ranges from 35 cm to 39 cm (13.7” to 15.3”) and weigh between 0.7 and 1.2 kg (1.5 to 2.6 lbs.).

DID YOU KNOW: Female Mountain cottontails are up to 5% larger than male counterparts, and can have four to five litters (of 4-8 kits or babies) in a single year!

Have we missed any great facts? Do you think we should add or change something in our article? Let us know by emailing your ideas to info@TheFurBearers.com.

Lunar New Year
How to celebrate Lunar New Year
https://yukon.ca/en/snowshoe-hare https://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/snowshoe-hare.html https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lepus_arcticus/ https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/arctichare.htm https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/43111-Sylvilagus-floridanus https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.791124/Sylvilagus_floridanus https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/bergmann-rule https://nhmu.utah.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/Lepus%20townsendii.pdf https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lepus_townsendii/ https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100375/Lepus_townsendii https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/species-risk-public-registry/cosewic-assessments-status-reports/nuttall-cottontail/chapter-3.html https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sylvilagus_nuttallii/#:~:text=Reproduction&text=The%20gestation%20period%20is%2028,1%20male%20to%201.1%20females).

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