Practical hunting

Published: Sunday 31 October 1993

DOES A hare flee when it spots a fox? Interestingly, no. Instead, it stands upright and signals its presence by flashing its ventral fur.

As a brown hare can run much faster, once the fox knows it has been spotted, it desists from chasing the hare, thereby saving a lot of effort for both parties, says Anthony Holley of the University of Durham in the UK, who has spent 10 years observing brown hares (Lepus europeaeus) in Somerset (New Scientist, Vol 139, No 1888).

Holley concludes hares "signal" directly at a predator that normally has to depend on stealth to catch them. But it would be fatal for a hare to signal its presence to a predator that could run faster, such as a dog.

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