South African Springhare Fact File
Wild 10 years
Captive 13 years
The South African springhare is a mammal found across southern Africa. They are most notable due to the large back feet which they use to hop across their environment.
During the night South African springhares will emerge from their underground burrows to feed on vegetation.
Females produce a single young multiple times in a year which is raised in the burrow. Within 7 weeks of birth the young is independent and living alone.
South African springhares may be hunted for food or fur. They may come in to conflict with humans as they eat crops.
Read on to learn more about these amazing animals.
South African springhares are equipped with large back feet which allow them to hop quickly through their environment. Their five large front claws are specialized for burrowing in the soil.
Across the body they are colored reddish brown or sandy colored on the back with white fur across the underside. Similar coloration extends on the fronts of the thighs and insides of the legs.
Their large ears feature a tragus which stops them becoming filled with sand while the South African springhare is digging.
At the end of the body is a long tail measuring 30-47cm (12-18.5in) long. Along its length it is colored the same as the body but ends with a black tip. When sitting their tail acts as a support for the body.
An average South African springhare measures 27-40cm(10.5-16in) and weighs 4kg (8.8lbs).
Males and females are similar in their appearance.
South African springhares are herbivores. They feed on a range of vegetation including grasses, seeds, stems and bulbs. Small amounts of insects may also be consumed.
When feeding they are regularly seen moving around on all four feet.
Africa is the native home of the springhare. Here they can be found in the following countries – Angola; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; Zambia and Zimbabwe.
They make their home in savanna, shrubland and grassland. They require suitable substrate as they are unable to burrow in areas where the substrate is too hard.
South African springhares dig a burrow in which they can live. When resting in the tunnel they will fill the entrance with
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They appear to have no set breeding season instead producing young year round. A single female may produce a litter every 100 days.
After a 78-82 day gestation period they will give birth to one young. Upon birth the South African springhare is already covered with hair and the eyes open after three days.
These young are suckled in a breeding burrow for the next seven weeks after which they leave their mother.
Sexual maturity is reached by one year old.
Springhare move through their habitat with a hopping behavior which is much like that of Australia's kangaroos.
Along with helping with hopping the large back feet are able to pick up vibrations which are moving through the ground. This along with a keen sense of sight, smell and hearing help them to avoid predators.
These animals are active by night and spend the day time resting in a tunnel which they dig.
When active they will move around in a group of two to six individuals.
Springhares emerge at night.
Predators and Threats
Their main method of defense against predators is to flee using their quick hopping gait and try to reach their burrow where they can seek out safety.
The South African springhare is considered common but no estimates of their abundance have been made.
At present no major threats to their survival are presented by humans. Some hunting occurs for food. They may also be used in clothing.
Springhares may come in to conflict with humans as they destroy large amounts of food crops.
South African springhares are the more common of the two springhare species. The other is the East African springhare.
These animals have been observed to exhibit biofluorescence which means their fur can absorb short wavelengths of light and re-emit it as longer wavelengths of light.
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Revolutionrock1976, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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