When is a rabbit not a rabbit? When it’s a jackrabbit! Jackrabbits are technically hares. They are often confused in Wyoming with the cottontail rabbit. Jackrabbits are larger with longer ears than a cottontail. Those big ears are equipped with generous blood flow and help dissipate heat as well as detect predators. It was actually these large ears that gave them their name. Early settlers called them “jackass rabbits” because of their resemblance to a jackass or donkey. It was later shortened to jackrabbit.
Jackrabbits run faster and hop further than their poofy-tailed brethren bunnies. Jackrabbits are capable of bursts of speed up to 40 miles an hour. They are also reported to be good swimmers, although I’ve never seen that.
Wyoming has two species of jackrabbbits – the white-tailed jackrabbit and the black-tailed jackrabbit. These hares change clothes according to the season, turning white in the winter to blend in with snow. This guy is obviously as ready for summer! I spotted him while Wyokiddo and I were on our way to play at the lake. They are usually crepuscular, meaning active early in the morning and in the evening. He was hunkered down in a ditch, doing his best to stay cool and not attract any attention. If I hadn’t seen the sun glint off his eye, we would have driven right past him.
Jackrabbits eat grasses, forbs and grains. They love cultivated crops, too. They, in turn, are the ranch dressing of the prairie. Just about everything big enough eats them. Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, snakes, mountain lions, owls and eagles all dine on the jackrabbit.
Who knows how this jackrabbit lost part of his ear. It might have been any of the above-mentioned predators. Or Mike Tyson.