Lepus europaeus occidentalis

Threats Status

Unwanted Organism

Common Name(s)

Brown hare




Brown hares occur on most types of open habitat, including crops and pasture, coastal dunes, scrub/forest clearings, marshes and moorlands and even alpine tussock grassland up to the limit of vegetation. They generally spend no or only very little time in sheltered habitats even if there are present within their home range. They feed on a wide range of plant species, including grasses, clovers, foliage, seeds and flower buds.


Brown hare are cat size and have a tawny coloured coat with a white belly, a black patch on the tips of their ears and yellow coloured eyes. Their have a loping gait with their tail down showing the black upper side.

Similar Species

Hares are similar to European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus cuniculus), but are bigger and have black tipped ears.

Threat To Plants

Grazing of palatable plant species without immediately killing them as only few leaves per individual are selected over a wide area.


Throughout most of New Zealand (on suitable habitat below 2000m) except a region located near Auckland on the North Island, part of south Westland and most of Fiordland on the South Island and all other islands belonging to New Zealand.


Weight: 2,4-4,8kg; Length of ears: 90-105mm; Length of hind feet: 130-155mm

Year Introduced


Reason For Introduction

Food and game

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand via Phillip Island, Victoria around 1860s. By 1876 further animals had been released in Auckland, Canterbury, Nelson, Otago, Southland and Wellington. Until 1870 hares were protected under the Protection of Certain Animals Act 1861 and consequently spread rapidly over both islands.