Black-Tailed Jackrabbit Fact File

Lepus californicus

Credit: Public Domain








Wild 5 years

Captive 5 years



Grass, Weeds, Leaves

Conservation Status


Least Concern

A Hare not a Rabbit!

Despite their name the black-tailed jackrabbit is actually a species of hare. They produce young which are fully furred and able to escape from predators when threatened.

They are a herbivore which will feed on grasses and shrubs with seasonal variation in this diet.

Females give birth in a fur-lined burrow or depression in the ground but they will only give milk to the young for 3-4 days before the young can start to feed themselves.

This species has been affected through habitat destruction, competition with livestock and hunting by introduced predators.

Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.


What does the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit look like?

Despite being known as the black-tailed jackrabbit this species is actually a hare. One of their most prominent features are a pair of ears which poke upwards from the top of their head. The tips of their ears are colored black.

As their name suggests the tail of this species of black.

Their body is covered by a coat of grey fur with reddish and black flecks throughout it. On the underside they have paler fur. A black stripe runs down the back.

Their face is relatively flat which allows them to see almost the entire way around their body.

An average individual will measure 40-70cm (15.5-27.5in) long with a weight between 1.5 and 3.5kg (3.25-7.75lbs). Females tend to be larger than males.


How does the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit survive in its habitat?

Their large ears are lined with blood vessels. These are used to move heat away from the body. This allows them to cool their body while they are moving around in their warm environment.

These ears also provide excellent hearing.

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What does the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit eat?

The black-tailed jackrabbit is a herbivore. They will feed on a range of grasses and herbaceous plants.

Their diet changes seasonally. During summer they feed on grasses while in winter they make use of shrubs.

Black-tailed jackrabbits will eat their food twice. This allows them to extract all of the nutrition possible from their food. They will produce a cecal pellet which is then consumed a second time.

This species is able to gain the vast majority of their water needs from their food.

Learn more about the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit in this video from 4 Guests USA on YouTube


Where do you find the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit?

North America is the native home of the black-tailed jackrabbit. Here they can be found in Mexico and the United States.

They occur naturally within the following states - Montana, Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Oregon, Nebraska, Kansas, California, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Washington, Arizona, Idaho and Utah.

Populations have been formed through introductions in these states - Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida and Virginia. Another recent population expansion has been to Cerralvo Island off the California coast.


Where can the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit survive?

These animals are found in forest, savanna, shrubland and grassland habitats.

Jackrabbits make use of burrows unlike other species of hare. Instead of digging their own burrow they will modify the burrow of species such as jackrabbits.

Black-Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)

Credit: Public Domain


How does the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit produce its young?

Mating can take place in this species year round in warm climates. In some colder areas they will only breed from February to May. Each year a female may produce as many as four litters.

During the breeding season the males will fight one another.

Each litter includes between three and five fully furred young. These are born after a 46 to 47 day gestation period. Females will form a fur-filled depression in which they can give birth.

Individuals in the north of the range where their is a shorter breeding season they produce larger litters.

At birth the young have well developed eyesight which is used to watch out for threats. Within minutes of birth they are able to run allowing them to move to cover. The mother will regularly move her young so that predators are less likely to find them.

Young are only nursed for three to four days.


What does the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit do during its day?

This is a fast-running species which is assisted by their long, powerful hind legs. Over short distances they may reach speeds up to 64km/h (40mph). They are also able to swim using a dog paddling like motion.

Much of their activity occurs at night as their environment is subject to high levels of heat.

Black-Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What stops the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit from surviving and thriving?

A range of species such as the pumas, bobcats, coyotes, birds of prey such as hawks and eagles and rattlesnakes will prey on the black-tailed jackrabbit.

A recent decrease in control measures for predators has led to more pressure on this species.

During periods of favourable conditions these animals can quickly reproduce and grow their numbers rapidly.

When threatened they will flash the white underside of their tail as a warning to other jackrabbits.

Populations of the black-tailed jackrabbit are in decline.

This species is being threatened by competition with livestock, hunting by introduced predators and declining quality of their habitat and human-induced events in this area.

Small numbers are taken by hunters but this doesn't appear to represent a major threat to their survival. It is rare for this species to be captured for food as they are often infected with parasites.

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Quick facts

This species was originally known as the 'jackass rabbit' which was eventually shortened to 'jackrabbit.'

They were first described for western science during 1837.

Six subspecies of the black-tailed jackrabbit have been recognized.

Black-Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)

Credit: Public Domain


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK     

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Howard, J., 2019. Encyclopedia of animals. Beverly: Wide Eyed Editions.

Brown, D.E., Lorenzo, C. & Álvarez-Castañeda, S.T. 2019. Lepus californicusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T41276A45186309. Accessed on 20 March 2022. 2022. Wild Things: Black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) | The Independent. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 March 2022]. 2022. Black-tailed Jackrabbit- Lepus californicus - NatureWorks. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 March 2022]. 2022. Black-tailed Jackrabbit Fact Sheet. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 March 2022].

Splash. 2022. Black-tailed Jackrabbit - Splash. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 March 2022].

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