The Cape hare is well adapted to living in arid and desert environments, with a low metabolic rate, concentrated urine (to minimise water loss), and the ability to drink more saline water than other hares (10). It may also be able to radiate heat through the large ears (5) (8). Active at night, this species feeds mainly on grasses and other herbaceous (non-woody) plants, but is likely to take bark, buds, shoots and other plant material when the favoured foods are unavailable (3) (5) (6) (7). Like other hares and rabbits, it maximises the nutrients gained from its food by re-ingesting its faeces, so that food passes through the digestive tract twice (3) (6) (7). The enlarged caecum also contains cellulose-digesting bacteria, which help break down plant material (7).
Although usually solitary, the Cape hare may be seen in small groups in the breeding season, when males may fight or ‘box’ with each other, or with receptive females (3) (5) (6) (7). The Cape hare is a rapid breeder, able to reproduce year-round in some areas, and sometimes producing up to eight litters a year (1) (4) (5) (8). The female gives birth to around one to four young, after a short gestation period of about 42 days, and can become pregnant again immediately after giving birth (4) (5) (7) (8). The young, known as leverets, are born fully furred and with the eyes open. The leverets are able to move around shortly after birth, but are left concealed in vegetation and are only visited by the female for a short period each day to suckle (3) (5) (6) (7) (8). Weaning usually occurs by one month, and the young may reach sexual maturity at eight months (3). Lifespan in the wild may be around five years, although only a minority are likely to survive the first year (7).