Saturday, April 11, 2009
jackrabbit image credit: painting by artist Jeff Ham
Since I can't seem to get back into MMM right now (MMM is hardly Easter material at any rate), and since I tend to stay away from traditional Easter bunnies (here's my last year's easter animal), I thought I'd "share the hare" ... the Easter Hare, that is!
There are many folklore tales about hares. Instead of a human face, some see a Hare in the Moon. The hare is often associated with female dieties. There's a legend about a bow hunter shooting a hare in the leg with his arrow and following it as it disappears into the woods. He never finds the wounded hare, but does find a beautiful woman sitting on a fallen tree pulling an arrow out of her leg! The ancient Celts considered hares to be so close to the spirit world, they would not eat them. In Ireland they said they would not eat a hare for fear of eating their own grandmother! For some very interesting rabbit and hare symbolism, click here.
As a symbol of springtime and fertility, I think the Hare is as good a symbol for Easter as the bunny rabbit.
A Hare is different from a bunny rabbit in many ways. Hares live in the open, not in warrens or burrows. Hares are born furred and with their eyes wide open. A fully grown Hare is about 2-ft tall, even taller if the legs are fully extended and the ears are fully erect. They are longer-legged and have much longer ears than bunny rabbits. Bugs Bunny looks more like a hare than a wascally wabbit to me!
Desert Jackrabbits are actually hares. They have intelligent long faces. For a photo by Laura Hughes that really captures a jackrabbit's face, click here (it won't blog load).
Relying on speed and leaping ability to evade predators, you won't normally see a hare until you get too close.
On desert hikes, I've been surprised by hares springing straight up out of a bush and leaping away in 15-ft bounds. That'll start your heart, for sure! After a few quick leaps, the hare will jump ever higher as it gains momentum to sail over the desert brush.
Since hares are primarily nocturnal and mostly hiding during the day, seeing one in the daytime like the above photo is quite a treat.
Hares can be very social, too. I've seen large groups of 25-50 congregating out in the desert, their long ears especially visible on a full moon night as they busily nibble sagebrush.
In a happy coincidence for 2009, the moon will still be pretty full on Easter Sunday. Many cultures have names for each month's full moon (for the few months with two full moons, the second one is the Blue Moon). Some of the names for April's full moon are The Pink Moon, The Seed Moon, The Planting Moon, and in some places, yes ... The Hare Moon ...
So, I will be looking for Easter Hares under the mostly-full moon tonight and tomorrow night. If I see any, it will truly be an Easter Hare Moon. Wish I had a night-vision camera!
Happy Easter, everyone!