Despite its name, the Black-tailed Jackrabbit is not a rabbit at all- it is a hare! In one day, fifteen of these large hares can eat as much as a grazing cow! Native to arid brush or desert regions, Black-tailed Jackrabbits eat whatever vegetation they can find, including cactus!
In summer, they eat more green or herbaceous plants while the winter forces them to eat more woody or dried plants. They eat a lot for their size- Jackrabbits graze constantly and obtain most of their water from their food!
Black-tailed Jackrabbits are most active in cooler parts of the day or at night, sleeping during the summer heat in shady areas and wind-shielding brush in winter. When they sense danger, ever-alert Black-tailed Jackrabbits flash the brownish-white underside of their tail and thump their large hind feet on the ground to warn other nearby Jackrabbits!
They elude predators like snakes, owls, hawks, bobcats, coyotes, and foxes with their speed, zigzagging away at up to thirty-five miles per hour instead of taking cover. They also rely on leaping, and can jump twenty feet in a single bound!
Black-tailed Jackrabbits can maintain forty miles per hour and more on a straight course for over a mile. Orphaned young Jackrabbits raised in captivity cannot be re-released in the wild, as they cannot fend for themselves.
Other captive Jackrabbits include those used to bait hounds in races or hunting trials. They are wild animals and are not recommended as pets, but if a Black-tailed Jackrabbit must be captive it needs fresh water at all times. A rabbit pellet diet supplemented with lots of grasses or green food will be fine, and the Jackrabbit should have some sort of brush cover to hide under in his enclosure.
Black-tailed Jackrabbits grow to an average of seven pounds and 22 inches. They are long and lean, with erect, black-tipped ears of about six inches in length and hind feet of about six inches in length! The ears help to dissipate heat and lie flat along a sleeping rabbit for warmth.
The long feet help in running, as do the well-muscled hind legs, which are longer than the front legs. Females tend to be larger than males. Black-tailed Jackrabbits are identified by the black stripe on the top of the tail, the underside of which is a dirty-white color. The entire underside of the rabbit matches the underside of the tail, and the predominant coloration of the Jackrabbit’s visible body is black-peppered tan or gray.
Black-tailed Jackrabbits prefer the open deserts and grassland of southwestern North America. They are considered a pest to farmers and orchard keepers and are widely hunted for food or sport or used in hunting hound trials or greyhound racing.
The name Jackrabbit given to this family of hares is thought to have come from their similarity to rabbits and their ears’ similarity to those of donkeys, also known as jack-asses. The name Jack-ass Rabbit was shortened to Jackrabbit. Black-tailed Jackrabbits are by far the most common of the Jackrabbit species.
Jackrabbits are not considered game animals, which means they may be hunted without restriction. Like any wild animal, Black-tailed Jackrabbit meat may have tularemia, parasites, or other diseases, so be careful when handling them.
Black-tailed Jackrabbits are wild animals and do not thrive as captive pets. They should only be kept when they cannot be reintroduced to the wild. Captive Jackrabbits live about six years, but wild Black-tailed Jackrabbits die much sooner due to predation and disease.
Black-tailed Jackrabbits breed year round. They may have one to six litters of one to eight young per year! The average litter size is three, and young Jackrabbits are known as leverets. After a gestation period of about 45 days, the leverets are born fully furred and sighted!
Black-tailed Jackrabbit females care for the young, hiding them during the day while she forages for food, and returning to them at night to nurse them. She will locate them by calling to them softly! At one month, the leverets can fend for themselves and by eight months Black-tailed Jackrabbits are sexually mature.