View Full Version : difference between snow shoe hares and rabbits

June 5, 2012, 02:54 PM
Im new to hunting and I was thinking on maybe starting small on rabbits and snow shoe hares. I live in Wisconsin and hares are open all year while rabbits are September through February somethin. The two animals look very similar and im afraid I might hit a rabbit out of season and have the DNR all over me. Is there any way to tell the difference between these two animals? Any help would be awesome:)

June 5, 2012, 03:10 PM
Showshoe hares wear snowshoes duh! :p

Seriously though they do wear snowshoes sort of. Snowshoe hares tend to have longer ears than a cottontail as well as larger hind feet and longer hind legs. They also have tufts of black on their ears that remain there all year round while their coat changes from mottled brown to all white in the winter then back to mottled brown in summer.

Cottontails don't change the color of their coats and don't have the black tufts on their ears. Their feet are also smaller as are their ears.

Depending on where you hunt in WI you won't have to worry about distinguishing between the two. I live in middle eastern WI and I have never seen a showshoe hare on my property. I do see them on occasion however where I deer hunt in northwestern WI. If you want to hunt rabbit and/or hare I'd strongly suggest getting yourself a good earth dog or pairing up with someone who has one. It makes the hunt more enjoyable and more productive.

So where in WI do you live? If you aren't too far away and since you're new to hunting I'd be happy to have you tag along on some of my hunting trips this year... fishing too if you like to fish. Just shoot me a PM.

June 5, 2012, 05:46 PM
I'm far away from you in sunny Southern California, but I also love hunting both cottons (wabbits)and jacks (hares). I've noticed 3 differences I the two species:

1) size- generally the jacks are about 2-3 times the size of the cottons- this may not hold true in your part of the country.

2) movement- cottons tend to run or scamper close to the ground most of the time, kinda like a squirrel. Jacks motion tends to look a bit more deliberate in almost a galloping fashion at times. They seem to have more of a "hop" in their step. Again this could be very different in your part of the country- particularly when hunting in snow. All my bunny chasing is done in dry brushy, and generally warmer foothill areas, and/or the desert proper.

3) ear shape- all the jacks I've seen while hunting have big old long ears. Kinda creepy looking when they stand upright on their hind legs with ears pointed up listening for me coming to bast 'em.

When in doubt, scout scout scout! Hope this helps, and good huntin'!

June 5, 2012, 05:49 PM
One is born with hair and the other is born naked. Altho it's easy to distinguish between the two, you really don't want to shoot snowshoes for sport outside of the regular rabbit season anyway.

June 5, 2012, 06:33 PM
Snowshoe hares are larger and have largeer feet. During the summer, they are brown with black ear tips.

Cottontails are small, with white tails, small feet, smallish ears.

If it's bigger than a football, it's probably a hare or a domestic rabbit.

June 5, 2012, 08:57 PM
If it's bigger than a football, it's probably a hare or a domestic rabbit.

I was out squirrel/rabbit/predator hunting and I had sat down to eat lunch in the middle of a 200 acre parcel of public land that I small game hunt now and then. I was eating my PB&J sandwich when I heard a slight sound off to my left so I put my sandwich down on my lap and hefted my dedicated AR in .22lr. I shouldered it and scanned the forest to find some dark tan fur on some HUGE rabbit ears. I watched these ears a bit and the whole monster came out from behind a bush. It was about the size of a smallish medium dog (like a beagle) and was tan all over. So I was sitting there wondering what the heck kind of rabbit it was since I'd never seen a rabbit that big (domestic or wild). Anyway I watched it for a bit then decided to place a call to the warden that holds authority over that parcel of land just to make sure. Of course this means I'd lost the rabbit but better to be safe than sorry.

He told me that next time (and if I saw it again) I should shoot it because its definitely NOT native. Later that day I was on my way back to my truck when I saw it again. I head shot it at about 20 yards. It was just sitting there looking at me as I put one right between its eyes. The danged thing weighed just under 18lbs dressed and skinned!

I learned later on that it was a domestic rabbit breed - a Flemish Giant. I never did figure out how it came to be roaming free in the woods though.

June 7, 2012, 02:01 AM
^Holy crap! An 18 pound rabbit? Very cool. Wonder if it ever bred with the native rabbits?

June 7, 2012, 03:59 AM
There are two similar animals rabbits and hares. Our hares include snowshoe rabbits [properly varying hare] and jackrabbit. Hares are usually large. Rabbits include cottontail ,swamp and a few other types.
Some people raise rabbits for food and this is common in Europe.

Then there's the Jackalope !!!:D :p

Cool Breeze
June 11, 2012, 05:14 PM
I been hunting jackalope for decades now with absolutely no luck whatsoever. the only ones I've seen are on taxidermists shelves.........

what the heck?..................:confused::p

June 11, 2012, 05:42 PM
My wife, back before she was my wife and was still a product of an anti-gun /anti-hunting family, asked me once about the genetic background of a jackalope - as in how is it possible for a rabbit to grow antlers and how she'd only ever seen them after they'd been shot and mounted but never seen one alive and her family spent a lot of time camping in the woods... I thought she was joking at first but looking at her very angry face because I laughed at a question she asked seriously I realized she honestly believed the jackalope existed...:eek::D

June 11, 2012, 06:16 PM
Thinking WAY back in my science class, there are rabbits and hares. Rabbits are altricial, I hope I spelled that correctly. Hares are precocial. Altricial amimals are born helpless and immobile. Humans, rabbits, birds, cats, dogs ect all require "nest" time, requiring parental care. Precocial animals are born with their eyes open and mobile, though this process may require a few hours. Precocial animals are born not in a nest but mearly dropped on the ground. Some precocial animals are deer, horses, cows, ect. Jackrabbits are not rabbits but instead are hares, they were misnamed. It has been 40 plus years since I learned the above so a few "facts" may require correcting.