Black-tailed jackrabbits are really hares, not rabbits. The name jackrabbit became famous because of Mark Twain, an American writer from the 1800s. When Europeans began settling in the southwest part of the United States and first saw the black-tailed jackrabbit, they thought its big ears resembled a donkey's ears, and thus call it a "jackass rabbit." In Mark Twain's book "Roughing It," he used the term and from then on it stuck, but was eventually shortened to jackrabbit. There are quite a few interesting facts about the black-tailed jackrabbit, including where it lives, its funny looks, its eating habits and its life on the run.
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Where They Live
Black-tailed jackrabbits like to live in valleys. Sometimes they will venture into rocky hills or climb up the lower part of a mountain for food, but usually they prefer to be down in a valley close to shrubs or cacti in the desert. Black-tailed jackrabbits do not make a home such as a burrow, but instead are like nomads roaming the forest, taking shelter in a hole in the ground or a hole in a tree. You can find black-tailed jackrabbits in the southwestern part of the United States and into northern New Mexico.
What They Look Like
Black-tailed jackrabbits have very big ears with black tips of fur on the ears and on the tail. They are bigger than rabbits, but leaner and have longer legs. This is one reason they are hares rather than rabbits. Another reason is that a newborn black-tailed jackrabbit is born with its eyes open and already covered in fur. Rabbits are not; they are born naked with their eyes closed. Black-tailed jackrabbits also have furry feet that help protect against the hot sand and gravel exposed to the blazing sun.
What They Eat
The eating habits of black-tailed jackrabbits might surprise you. For starters, they eat a lot of food for their size, but not only that, they seem to love the food no other animals want. They eat a lot of shrubs, bushes, tough grasses and even black greasewood. For a snack, they love to chew on twigs and leaves. The most surprising of all is that the black tailed jackrabbit will eat its food twice. They will poop after eating and then eat the poop. It sounds gross, but there is a good reason; they do this to get the moisture. This helps the black-tailed jackrabbits to conserve water and allows them to go days without drinking, a very helpful attribute for animals living in the desert. They usually feed at night, venturing out under the cover of darkness to try to avoid predators.
On the Run
Black-tailed jackrabbits have a number of animals that see them as a source of food. Coyotes, bobcats, eagles and mountain lions are just a few that love nothing more than the sight of a black-tailed jackrabbit. Therefore, black-tailed jackrabbits spend most of their life on the run. And run they can, reaching speeds of up to 39 miles per hour; though they lack endurance and can't run for very long. This comes in handy for the persistent coyote, the number one menace for black-tailed jackrabbits.
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