• Photo: David A. Gill

As their name suggests, Arctic hares live north of the tree line, in tundra regions across Canada. Their biggest defense against their extreme environment is their coat, which in winter is brilliant white. Not only does it keep them warm, it also acts as camouflage, making it harder for predators such as wolves, foxes, polar bears and snowy owls to see them in the snow. In summer, the hare’s fur becomes an ashy grey-brown to better blend in with the surrounding tundra. Even with these seasonal changes, Arctic hares always have a white tail.

While the hares have special adaptations to prevent them from being seen, they have great vision themselves. Their eyes are placed on each side of their head, which means they can see almost a full 360 degrees while sitting still. When they sense danger, they will bolt — and they can run fast, reaching speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour.

Arctic hares have large back feet that act like snowshoes and keep them from sinking in the snow. Their front feet have long, strong claws that help them dig beneath the snow to find food. Arctic hares have a great sense of smell that helps them find mosses and lichens underneath the snow. In the summer, the tundra comes alive with vegetation the hares love to eat, including buds and berries, leaves, roots, and bark.

Fast Facts: Arctic Hare

Scientific name: Lepus arcticus 

Inuktitut name: Ukaliq

Average weight: Three to seven kilograms

Average lifespan: Undetermined as of yet, most likely four to five years

Super Sight

Arctic hares’ eyes are placed on either side of their head, so their field of vision is almost a full 360 degrees.

All-Season Animal

Arctic hares do not hibernate in winter. Instead, their coat thickens for warmth and becomes white for camouflage. 

Sure-Footed

The Arctic hare’s large, flat hind feet act like snowshoes, keeping the hare from sinking in the snow.

Did you know?

Arctic hares have their own sunglasses — black eyelashes that shield their eyes from the glare of the sun on the snow and ice.