Springhare [Pedetes capensis]
The vernacular name of this creature is misleading, since the Spring Hare is in fact a rodent, and not a hare. Springhares are to some degree used as food by African people similarly as the common hare is still hunted all over the world.
The head and body of the Spring Hare measures 400mm with a tail of 440 mm. It weighs up to 3 kg and is the only large jumping, bipedal rodent in this region. With its short front and large hind legs, it appears and behaves like a dwarf Kangaroo. They have long ears and a rabbit like head. Upper body parts are yellow-brown, cinnamon or rufous-brown in colour. They have a prominent dark tail tip. Their under parts vary from orange to white. Both sexes look alike.
The Spring Hare feeds on grass roots, rhizomes, corms, stems, seeds and leaves and seek out green grasses which are high in protein and water. Spring Hares forage on all fours, but sit on their hind feet and tail while eating, so as to manipulate the food with their forefeet.
The Spring Hare is a non seasonal breeder, giving birth to one young after a gestation period of 77 days. Females can give birth to single young up to three times in a year. Young are well furred at birth and are born in burrows. They can see and move around almost immediately after birth. Young are dependent on their mother's milk up to about seven weeks of age and at a weight of 1.3 kg. Sexual maturity is attained at eight months.
With their long hind legs they can run fast to escape from predators, such as birds of prey and Cheetah. Their habitat preference is for short grassy areas, sparse vegetation and sandy soils in which to burrow.
Where they are found
With the exclusion of deserts and forested areas, the Spring Hare has a wide distribution in South Africa, with a predilection for flat arid and semi-arid country.
Springhares are an important food source for people throughout Africa and as such their status is critical in many regions of the continent.