Online Encyclopedia

HARE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 768 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HARE. The rabbit has been domesticated from an early period. Little doubt exists amongst naturalists that all the varieties of the domestic animal are descended from Oryctolagus cuniculus. The variations which have been perpetuated and intensified by artificial selection are, with the exception of those of the dog, greater than have been induced in any other mammal. For not only has the weight been more than quadrupled in some of the larger breeds, and the structure of the skull and other parts of the skeleton greatly altered, but the proportionate size of the brain has been reduced and the colour and texture of the fur altered in a remarkable manner. The lop-eared breed is the oldest English variety, and has been cultivated carefully since about 1785, the aim of the breeder being directed to the development of the size of the ears, and with such success that they sometimes measure more than 23 in. from tip to tip and exceed 6 in. in width. This development, which is accompanied by changes in the structure of the skull, depends on breeding the animals in warm damp hutches, without which the best developed parents fail to produce the desired offspring. In colour lop-eared rabbits vary greatly. The Belgian hare is a large breed of a hardy and prolific character, which closely resembles the hare in colour, and is not unlike it in form. Some years ago these rabbits were sold as " leporides " or hybrids, produced by the union of the hare and the rabbit; but the most careful experimenters have failed to obtain any such hybrid, and the naked immature condition in which young rabbits are born as compared with the clothed and highly developed young hare renders it unlikely that hybrids could be produced. Nor does the flesh of the Belgian rabbit resemble that of the hare in colour or flavour. A closely allied variety, though of larger size, is known as the Patagonian rabbit, although it has no relation to the country after which it is called. The Angora rabbit is characterized by the extreme elongation and fineness of the fur, which in good specimens reaches 6 or 7 in. in length, requiring great care and frequent combing to prevent it from becoming matted. The Angoras most valued are albinos, with pure white fur and pink eyes; in some parts of the Continent they are kept by the peasants and clipped regularly. Amongst the breeds which are valued for the distribution of colour on the fur are the Himalayan and the Dutch. The former is white, but the whole of the extremities—viz. the nose, the ears, tail and feet—are black or very dark in colour. This very pretty breed has no connexion with the mountains from which it takesits name, but is a variety produced by careful breeding and selection. Though produced by crossing, it now generally breeds true to colour, at times throwing back, however, to the silver greys from which it was derived. The rabbits known as Dutch are small, and valued for the disposition of the colour and markings. The entire body behind the shoulder-blades is uniformly coloured, with the exception of the feet; the anterior part of the body, including the fore legs, neck, and jaws, is white, the cheeks and ears being coloured. In some strains the coloured portion extends in front of the fore legs, leaving only a ring of white round the neck. The more accurately the coloured portion is defined, the higher is the animal esteemed. The silver grey is a uniform-coloured breed, the fur of which is a rich chinchilla grey, varying in depth in the different strains. From the greater value of the fur, silver greys have been frequently employed to stock warrens, as they breed true to colour in the open if the ordinary wild rabbits are excluded. Other colours known, as silver fawn and silver brown, are closely related. A blue breed has been recently introduced. The largest and heaviest of all is the Flemish giant, with iron-grey fur above and white below. Other breeds include the Japanese, with an orange coat, broadly banded on the hind-quarters with black; the pink-eyed and short and thick-furred albino Polish; the Siberian, probably produced by crossing the Himalayan with the Angora; and the black-and-tan and blue-and-tan. See also HARE, SHOOTING, and COURSING. (W. H. F. ; R. L. *)
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SIR JOHN HARE (1844– )

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