Mountain hare running across snow-covered upland, Scottish Highlands
© SCOTLAND: The Big Picture/Minden Picture
Blink and you'll miss it
The mountain hare is doubly hard to catch sight of because, along with its tremendous speed, it's very well camouflaged. This helps the species to survive in the rugged mountains and uplands of northern Europe and Asia - this one is dashing across a heath in the Scottish Highlands. When they have to, these speedy animals can dart away as fast as 50mph, at least for short distances, allowing them to outrun predators like golden eagles and disappear safely into the heather. That’s if they are spotted in the first place - mountain hares change coats several times a year, their fur going from brown and grey in the summer, to white-grey in the winter, helping them to hide in the snow.
Unlike rabbits, hares don't burrow underground or sleep communally in warrens but instead live and rest above ground in small nest-like depressions called forms. Hares are born fully formed with fur coats and eyes wide open. When the spring breeding season arrives, the normally placid hares also undergo a personality change, from shy and docile creatures to frenzied, lovestruck animals on the hunt for mates. Male hares sometimes even 'box' each other as they battle for dominance and attention, striking rivals with their forepaws. Even the females have been known to do a little boxing, although that's usually just to fend off overly aggressive males. These antics have become so famous, they are said to have inspired the saying 'as mad as a March hare'.