Order: Lagomorpha
(Pikas, Hares, and Rabbits)


Family: Leporidae
Family: Ochotonidae

Pikas, Rabbits and Hares
    Legendary for their ability to reproduce, members of the order Lagomorpha are found on every continent. The order includes two families: Ochotonidae, the Pikas, and Leporidae, the rabbits and hares.
    Based on outward appearances you might think that rodents and lagomorphs are closely related. They do have a similar appearance, they exist in similar ecological nichesClick word for definition, they are vegetarian, and they have continuously growing incisors, but they are fundamentally different. Mammalogists now think that lagomorphs are more closely related to ungulates (the hoofed mammals) than to rodents.
    Their continuously growing incisors are well suited for gnawing and nipping vegetation. This continuous growth is an adaptation to the abrasiveness of their food and helps maintain a chisel edge on the incisors. Lagomorphs have two upper incisors on each side, while rodents have only one. The second one is a small peg behind the large incisor in front.
    An interesting behavior of lagomorphs is ingestion of their own feces (coprophagyClick word for definition). They defecate two types of feces, the dry, oval pellets that we commonly find in their habitat, and a black, viscous dropping that they promptly eat. It is thought that this practice reserves certain vitamins and other nutrients for them.
    Rabbit young are born naked and rather helpless (altricialClick word for definition). Hares bear young that are furred and able to move about shortly after birth (precocialClick word for definition). In Idaho there are six species present from this order.

Ochotonidae - Pikas
    There are only two species of pikas in North America, only one is found in Idaho. Pikas are quite different in appearance from rabbits and hares. They are similar in size and shape to a guinea pig. They are no more than pound in weight, they have no noticeable tail, and they have small hind feet with all four feet having fur on the soles. This provides them with good traction for scurrying about in the rocks of talus slopes, their primary habitat. Unlike rabbits and hares, they are active during the day, and they store food and are very social and vocal.

Leporidae - Rabbits and Hares
    Rabbits and hares are larger than pikas, have long ears and hind feet, and can run and hop very rapidly to escape predators. Unlike pikas they are not typically found in rocky, talusClick word for definition, mountain slopes. Rabbits and hares have noticeable tails, especially "cottontail" rabbits. Rabbits give birth to very immature young, termed "altricialClick word for definition" young. They are born without hare, their eyes are closed at birth, and they stay concealed in the natalClick word for definition nest while the mother nurses them. Hares give birth to young that are much more developed, or "precocialClick word for definition" young. They are born with hair, their eyes are open and they are able to move about shortly after birth. Hares do not dig or utilize burrows while rabbits do.


Written by Don Streubel, 2001
Page design by Ean Harker ©2000.