Snowshoe Hare Definition | Characteristics & Facts

Snowshoe hare

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare Definition

The Snowshoe hare (Lepus arcticus) is a species of hare that inhabits the Snowshoe regions of North America and Greenland. It is well-adapted to survive in the harsh and extreme cold climates of the tundra and other northern habitats.

Snowshoe hare General Characteristics & Facts

  1. Habitat: As the name suggests, Arctic hares inhabit the Arctic regions of North America and Greenland. They are found in tundra habitats, which are characterized by vast open spaces, cold temperatures, and low-growing vegetation.
  2. Camouflage: Arctic hares have excellent camouflage, especially during the winter months when their fur turns pure white. This adaptation helps them blend into the snowy landscape, making it challenging for predators to spot them.

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Physical Characteristics Snowshoe hare


Snowshoe hares are relatively large compared to other hare species. They can measure around 43 to 70 centimeters (17 to 28 inches) in length from head to tail.


Adult Arctic hares typically weigh between 2.5 to 5 kilograms (5.5 to 11 pounds).

Fur Coat

in winter, the fur is predominantly white, providing camouflage in the snow-covered landscape. During the summer months, the fur may change to a brownish-gray color to match the environment.


Snowshoe  hares have relatively small ears compared to other hare species. This adaptation helps minimize heat loss, as large ears would dissipate more body heat in the cold climate.

Legs and Feet

They have powerful hind limbs that allow them to run swiftly across the snow. Their large, furred feet act as natural snowshoes, helping them walk on top of the snow without sinking. The feet are covered with thick fur, which also aids in insulation.


The white fur of the Arctic hare provides excellent camouflage in the snowy surroundings, helping it avoid detection by predators.


The eyes of the Arctic hare are relatively large, providing good vision to spot potential threats or food sources.

Adaptations to Extreme Cold

Arctic hares have several physiological adaptations to cope with extreme cold temperatures. They have a high metabolic rate to generate enough body heat to stay warm, and they may shelter in shallow burrows or forms (nests) to conserve heat.

Seasonal Coat Change

As mentioned earlier, Arctic hares undergo a seasonal color change in their fur. This change allows them to blend in better with their environment during both winter and summer seasons.


Twice a year, in spring and autumn, Arctic hares undergo a molting process where they shed their old fur and grow a new one. This helps maintain the quality and insulating properties of their fur.

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Scientific Classification of Snowshoe Hare

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Lagomorpha

Family: Leporidae

Genus: Lepus

Species: Lepus arcticus

Key Locations of Snowshoe Hare

  • Arctic regions of North America (including Canada and Alaska).
  • Greenland.

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FAQS Snowshoe hare

What does Snowshoe hare eat?

The Snowshoe hare (Lepus arcticus) is primarily herbivorous and feeds on a variety of plant material. Its diet includes:

  • Grasses
  • Mosses
  • Lichens
  • Arctic willow (Salix arctica)
  • Arctic cotton grass (Eriophorum scheuchzeri)
  • Dwarf birch (Betula nana)
  • Arctic poppy (Papaver radicatum)
  • Various other tundra plants and shrubs.
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