Have you ever taken a close look at a hare’s tail? Many people think the hare does not have a tail at all, but this is not so. The hare’s tail is simply short and thin, but in the past the hare sported a rather beautiful long bushy tail. By contrast the fox then only had a small short tail. How the situation changed is revealed in this old story:
Lying quietly in the high grass in the morning sunshine, the large hare rested following his breakfast, his fluffy tail curled up around him. Those clover leaves and dandelion flowers were delicious. Suddenly his long black ears shot upright. He shook with fear and flattened his ears on his back. The frightened hare pressed himself against the ground in the hope that his colouring might camouflage him. Trembling, he saw with his big eyes his tormentor approaching him.
The fox walked up to the hare and said: “You hares have such an easy time of it. It’s so simple for you eat your fill. Herbs do not have legs. I, on the other hand, have to work hard for my food. My food does have legs and runs away or hides itself. Yes, indeed, life is tough for us foxes”, and he sighed. After a long silence, the fox continued:”Let’s have a race. You can fight me and whoever wins gains eternal fame. Whoever loses is a fool and will be a quarry forever. Should you lose, you lazy old hare, you will be mine forever, and that includes when I am feeling hungry.’ He licked his snout with his tongue at the very thought. The frightened hare did not have much choice. He fought the fox and lost dismally. The fox looked down at the hare and said scornfully: “Such a beautiful long tail does not suit a loser, oh hare” and he bit off the fluffy tail with a single bite. He stuck it onto the end of his own tail and admired his beautiful new tail with some satisfaction. The hare cleverly used those few seconds of the vain fox’s distraction to make a run for it. The fox realized this too late and shouted after the hare:”Whoever possesses someone’s tail also has a right to what is attached to it!” Having said this, he sprinted after the hare. But the hare only ran even faster.
Ever since that day the fox and the hare have been sworn enemies. The hare still has a short bitten off tail and the fox proudly flourishes his long red bushy tail.
Hares are often confused with rabbits. Hares are quite a bit larger, have longer ears and hind legs. Its sleeping place is in the grass where also their young are born. Rabbits, however, live down burrows. The hare is a nocturnal animal. Its hearing and sense of smell are very highly developed and his large eyes have 360 degree round vision. He seriously needs this protection against predators. Sleeping is dangerous and that is why he only takes a short nap of only a few minutes at a time. To make a get away he can run very fast with a top speed of a good 75 km per hour and then he can make jumps of almost 3,5 metres long and 1,5 high. In the mating season from February to April you can see them chasing one another in the meadows in the daytime. The young leave the nest a few hours after birth and survive mostly on their own, suckled only occasionally by their mother.
The hare is one of the animals hunted by the fox, which is one of the largest predators in the Low Lands. Like people, it eats everything from berries to meat. Their numbers have been increasing substantially in recent times. Sometimes foxes are already prowling around at dusk. Generally speaking, the fox will avoid humans, who hunt him. That is why it has changed from being active in the daytime to night time. The fox’s tail measures more than the half its body length. If need be, it can reach a top speed of 60 km per hour. They live in groups, one male, the tod, together with about five females, the vixens. They live underground in holes they dig themselves or which they have taken over from rabbits.
Their young are born underground and remain dependent on their mothers for many weeks.
© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl