Lepus timidus subsp. hibernicus | Irish Hare



Conservation status

 Future Prospects
Overall Assessment of Conservation Status
Overall Trend in Conservation Status
Source: NPWS 2013.

IUCN Conservation Status
Ireland (1) Least Concern
Europe (2)Least Concern
Global (3) Least Concern
Sources: (1) Marnell, F. et al 2009; (2) Henttonen, H. et al 2007; (3) Smith, A.T. & Johnston, C.H. 2008

Legal status

Protected by the following legal instruments:

  • Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), Annex V
  • Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) Appendix III
  • Wildlife Act (1976)
  • Wildlife (Amendment) Act (2000)
  • Wildlife (N.I.) Order of 1985
The Irish Hare (Lepus timidus ssp hibernicus) may be hunted in Ireland by the following methods;     

Shooting with firearms,

Coursing at regulated coursing matches,                                                                                        

Hunting with packs of beagles and harriers,

from September 26th each year to February 28th of the year immediately following, following throughout the state exclusive of the townlands of North East Slob, North West Slob, Big Island, Beggerin Island and The Raven, in the county of Wexford.

Native status


Species Biology


The summer coat of Lepus timidus ssp. hibernicus, the Irish Hare, is a reddish-brown, but paler ventrally.

There may be some variation in pelage colouration through the year for some individuals. In other subspecies of Lepus timidus there is generally a moulting to a white winter coat. In subspecies hibernicus this is rarely the case, often there is either no change in colour or very little or the white will be augmented by various patches of reddish brown.

In Lepus timidus the ears, if pulled forward, will only just reach the tip of the nose, in the European Hare (Lepus europaeus) they will stretch beyond it. In the past, the European Hare has been introduced to Ireland  as a quarry species, but the only population that appears to have been self sustaining is one near Strabane in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

In other subspecies of Lepus timidus the tail is completely white, whereas that of the European Hare is dark dorsally and this variation between the species may be used to distinguish between them. In Ireland however the tail of Lepus timidus ssp. hibernicus can also be dark dorsally. 

Mainly nocturnal, but can be active in daylight hours especially dawn and dusk.

Inevitably, in most parts of Ireland, the hare seen will Lepus timidus ssp. hibernicus, the Irish Hare.

The length of the Irish Hare is between 52cm and 60cm.

Average weight for females is 3.6kg, average for males is 3.2kg.

Weight of leverets at birth is 90-100g.

Sources: Fairley, J. 2001; Harris S.,Yalden D.W. 2008.


One of the common names for the overall species Lepus timidus is the Mountain Hare (another being the Arctic Hare). In the U.K., possibly due to the presence of the Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) as a native species, Lepus timidus is primarily a moorland and upland species. The Irish Hare however, due to lack of competition with another hare species occupies upland and lowland areas. It has been recorded in bogs, agricultural grassland, arable land and coastal grasslands.

Source: Harris S.,Yalden D.W. 2008.

A recent study in Ireland indicated that abundance of the Irish Hare is related to pastoral grassland interpsersed with 'rougher' habitats such as heath, bog and marsh.

Source: Reid, N. et al 2007.

Habitats include but are not necessarily limited to;

  • Improved agricultural grassland (GA1)
  • Semi-natural grassland (GS)
  • Dry siliceous heath (HH1)
  • Dry calcareous heath (HH2)
  • Fixed dunes (CD3)

  • Lowland blanket bog (PB3)
  • Upland blanket bog (PB2)

Sources: Anon., 2005; Harris S.,Yalden D.W. 2008; Fossitt, J.A., 2001.


  • In Ireland young can be born as early as January and as late as October.
  • Gestation is c. 44 days.
  • Litter is of between 1 and 4 leverets.
  • Leverets are precocious, being able to see and move about shortly after birth.
  • Young are usually concealed, separately, and maternal care is mainly limited to visits to suckle young.
  • Estimated age at weaning c. 4weeks.
Sources: Fairley, J. 2001; Harris S.,Yalden D.W. 2008.

Threats faced

Modification of cultivation practices
Intensive mowing or intensification
Invasive non-native species
Roads, motorways
Urbanised areas, human habitation
Hunting and collection of wild animals (terrestrial)
Source: NPWS 2013.

These threats include threats also identified in the 2009 Irish Red List of Terrestrial Mammals in which the following additional threat was also identified;

  •   Habitat loss and fragmentation lead to isolation and inbreeding.

Source: Marnell, F. et al 2009.

These threats include threats also identified in the IUCN Red List at European (2007) and Global (2008) levels wherein two additional  threats that could become relevant in Ireland are identified;

  • The pathogens European Brown Hare Syndrome (EHBS) and tularemia.
  • Climate change affecting competitive relationships between Lepus timidus and Lepus europaeus
Sources:Heikki Henttonen et al 2007; Smith, A.T. & Johnston, C.H. 2008.

In the Article 17 reporting and all three levels of IUCN Red List assessment the threat to the Irish Hare (Lepus timidus ssp. hibernicus) from the Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) whether through hybridisation, competition, or as a vector for disease is referred to.

Conservation actions

In the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the period 2007-2012 no Conservation Measures in place or in the process of being implemented during the period were listed for this species.

Source: NPWS 2013.

The 2009 Irish Red List of Terrestrial Mammals suggests the following Conservation Action for the species;

  • Further work on impact of coursing on breeding dynamics and dispersal

Source: Marnell, F. et al 2009

The European level IUCN Red List suggests the following;

  • In Ireland, the cause(s) of population change require further investigation.

Sources:Heikki Henttonen et al 2007.

In a 2005 Species Action Plan a total of 20 Actions were identified as part of the plan. The timescale for some of the actions extended into the Article 17 reporting period 2007-2012. The Species Action Plan is available from the NPWS website.


World distribution(GBIF)

The Irish Hare (Lepus timidus ssp. hibernicus) is a subspecies endemic to Ireland.

Irish distribution

The species is widespread and likely abundant throughout the island, apart from some western islands.

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.

How can you help

The National Biodiversity Data Centre is trying to improve our knowledge of the distribution of the Irish Hare in Ireland. Should you observe this species, please submit sightings to add to the database. Detailed observations will assist us gaining a better insight into where the species is most abundant in Ireland and we might also be able to detect regional variations. Please submit any sightings and photographs at:

All records submitted online can be viewed on Google Maps – once checked and validated these will be added to the database and made available for conservation and research.

Further information

For further information contact Dr. Liam Lysaght



Anon. (2005) All Ireland Species Action Plans. Irish Lady’s-tresses Spiranthes romanzoffiana, Pollan Coregonus autumnalis, Hare Lepus timidus hibernicus, Corncrake Crex crex. Environment & Heritage Service, Department of Environment,Northern Ireland and the National Parks & Wildlife Service, Department of Environment,Heritage and Local Government, Republic of Ireland.

Fairley, J. 2001 A Basket of Weasels. Privately published, Belfast, U.K.

Fossitt, J.A. (2001) A Guide to Habitats in Ireland. The Heritage Council.

Harris S., Yalden D.W. (2008). Mammals of the British Isles :Handbook, 4th Edition. The Mammal Society.

Heikki Henttonen H., Smith A., Johnston C., 2007. Lepus timidus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 29 October 2014.

Reid, N., Dingerkus, K., Montgomery, W.I., Marnell, F., Jeffrey, R., Lynn, D.,Kingston, N.& McDonald, R.A. (2007) Status of hares in Ireland.Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 30.National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland

Smith, A.T. & Johnston, C.H. 2008. Lepus timidus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 29 October 2014.