IF YOU are not familiar with hares, it can take you by surprise how big they are. Occasionally I see one in the field at the back of us, and every time my first thought is that it’s a dog. Adults can weigh up to 11lb compared with the rabbit’s four and half, and they have much longer legs.
The European or brown hare (Lepus europaeus) is native to much of continental Europe and part of Asia. It is thought to have been introduced to Britain during or before Roman times but is now classed as naturalised.
This is the time of year to see hares. Most of the time they are shy and nocturnal, but in spring they change their behaviour when they chase each other around in daylight, as shown in this video.
Sometimes they can be seen ‘boxing’, when a female is resisting the attentions of a suitor, hence the expression ‘mad March hares’.
The female nests in a depression known as a ‘form’ on the ground rather than in a burrow. The leverets are active almost as soon as they are born. Here is a lovely video:
In the farmland around our home you can often see half a dozen hares in a single field. Our working cocker spaniel Bingo gives optimistic chase but they always leave him standing (not surprising with a top speed of 45mph). The other day, a jack (male) hare stopped running, turned and sat staring contemptuously at him, defying him to ‘catch me if you can’. When Bingo got about ten yards away it casually loped off at half speed.
Hare coursing, a ‘country sport’ in which dogs (greyhounds or lurchers) chase down and kill hares has been banned in Britain since 2005. However illegal coursing is widespread in remote areas, with reports of intimidation of rural communities and damage to crops and buildings. Plans to strengthen the powers and penalties available to tackle the barbaric practice of hare coursing were set out by the Government in January.
Sheep of the Week: Zwartbles
This impossible-looking word is the Dutch for ‘black blaze’ and is pronounced (roughly) ‘Jwort Bless’. The singular and plural are the same.
The breed was first imported from the Netherlands in the 1990s. In their homeland they were on the decline but they have proved popular here, where they are bred for meat. They have dark brown fleece, typically with a white blaze, white socks and a white tip to the tail (which is not usually docked, unlike many other breeds). They are tall sheep, without horns, and exceptionally friendly, as you can see from this video.
They are also excellent mothers and well adapted to the climate in the north of England, so there are quite a few round here. Here is another video which is worth seeing for the lambs.
More information on these delightful sheep can be found at the Zwartbles Sheep Association here.
Great mysteries of life: Why do dog owners carefully pick up the mess then leave the bags on the pavement, on the verge or hanging from a branch? I saw these examples yesterday.
Packed in plastic like this, heaven knows how long it lasts, whereas left to itself it would be gone in a few days.
There is a hedge I have walked past hundreds of times, yet only yesterday did I notice that one section of it is covered in knobbles.
Here is a closer view.
I am embarrassed to say that I don’t know what species this is, but here is another stretch just a few yards away which is not knobbly.
I have tried to find out the cause, and the nearest I have come so far is crown gall, a disease caused by Agrobacterium tumefaciens, or burr knots, usually found on apple trees, which are root structures in the wrong place. Are there any knobble experts out there who can help?
Finally, don’t forget that reader Kathy Nel (‘linuslimmy’) is collating anecdotal evidence about bird and insect numbers, either increases or decreases (or even static). Send your comments and observations to this address: email@example.com. If you leave a comment below the line, we need a geographical location to be able to use it.