11            Northern Hare, Summer

                          LEPUS AMERICANUS.--Erxleben.

                                 NORTHERN HARE.
                                [Snowshoe Hare]

         PLATE XI.--Fig. 1, MALE; Fig. 2, YOUNG FEMALE.  Summer Pelage.
         PLATE XII.--Winter Pelage.

     L. hyeme albus; pilis tricoloribus, apice albis, ad radices coeruleis,
medio fulvis; aestate, supra rufo-fuscus, infra albus, auribus capite paullo
brevioribus; L. Sylvatica paullo robustior.  L. Glacialis minor.

     Size, larger than the gray rabbit (Lepus Sylvaticus), less than the Polar
hare; (L. Glacialis).  Colour in summer, reddish-brown above, white beneath; in
winter, white; roots of the hairs, blue; nearer the surface, fawn-colour, and
the tips, white; ears, a little shorter than the head.


     LIEVRE (Quenton Malisia), Sagard Theodat, Canada, p. 747. 1636.
     SWEDISH HARE, Kalm's Travels in North America, vol. ii., p. 45. 1749.
     AMERICAN HARE, Philos. Trans., London, vol. lxii., pp. 11, 376. 1772.
     LEPUS AMERICANUS, Erxleben, Syst. regni Animalis, p. 330. 1777.
     LEPUS NANUS, Schreber, vol. ii., p. 881, pl. 234, fig.
     LEPUS HUDSONIUS, Pallas, Glires, pp. 1, 30.
     VARYING HARE, Pennant, Arct. Zool., vol. i., p. 95.
     LEPUS VIRGINIANUS, Harlan, Fauna, p. 196. 1825.
     LEPUS VARIABILIS, var. Godman, Nat. Hist., vol. ii., p. 164.
     AMERICAN VARYING HARE, Doughty, Cabinet Nat. Hist., vol. i., p. 217,
       pl. 19, Autumn pelage.
     THE NORTHERN HARE, Audubon, Ornithological Biog., vol. ii., p. 469.  Birds
       of America, pl. 181 (in the talons of the Golden Eagle), Winter pelage.
     LEPUS AMERICANUS, Richardson, Fauna Boreali A., p. 217.
     LEPUS VIRGINIANUS, Bach, Acad. Nat. Sciences, Philadelphia, vol. vii.,
       p. 301.
     LEPUS AMERICANUS, Bach, Ib., p. 403, and Ib., vol. viii., p. 76.
     LEPUS AMERICANUS, Dekay, Nat. Hist. State of New-York, p. 95, pl. 26.


     Incisors, pure white, shorter and smaller than in L. Glacialis; upper ones
moderately grooved; the two posterior upper incisors very small.  The margins of
the orbits project considerably, having a distinct depression in the frontal
bone; this is more conspicuous in the old than in the younger animals.  Head
rather short; nose blunt, eyes large and prominent; ears placed far back, and
near each other; whiskers, long and numerous; body, elongated, thickly clothed
with long loose hair, with a soft downy fur beneath; legs, long; hind-legs,
nearly twice the length of the fore-legs; feet, thickly clothed with hair,
completely concealing the nails, which are long, thin, very sharp, and slightly
arched.  So thickly are the soles covered with hair, that an impression by the
nails is not generally visible in their tracks made while passing over the snow,
unless when running very fast.  Tail, very short, covered with fur, but not very
bushy.  The form of this species is on the whole not very elegant; its long hind
legs, although remarkably well adapted for rapid locomotion, and its diminutive
tail, would lead the spectator at first sight to pronounce it an awkward animal;
which is, nevertheless, far from being the fact.  Its fur never lies smooth and
compact, either in winter or summer, as does that of many other species, but
seems to hang loosely on its back and sides, giving it a somewhat shaggy
appearance.  The hair on the body is in summer about an inch and a half long,
and in winter a little longer.


     In summer, the whole of the upper surface is reddish-brown, formed by hairs
that are at their roots and for two-thirds of their length of a blueish ash
colour, then reddish-yellow, succeeded by a narrow line of dark-brown, the part
next the tips or points, reddish-brown, but nearly all the hairs tipped with
black--this colour predominating toward the rump.  Whiskers, mostly black, a few
white, the longest reaching beyond the head; ears, brown, with a narrow black
border on the outer margin, and a slight fringe of white hairs on the inner.  In
some specimens there is a fawn, and in others a light-coloured, edge around the
eyes, and a few white hairs on the forehead.  The pupil of the eye is dark, the
iris light silvery-yellow; point of nose, chin, and under the throat, white;
neck, yellowish-brown.  Inner surface of legs, and under surface of body, white;
between the hind-legs, to the insertion of the tail, white; upper surface of the
tail, brown, under surface white.  The summer dress of this species is assumed
in April, and remains without much change till about the beginning of November
in the latitude of Quebec, and till the middle of the same month in the State of
New-York and the western parts of Pennsylvania; after which season the animal
gains its winter pelage.  During winter, in high Northern latitudes, it becomes
nearly pure white, with the exception of the black edge on the outer borders of
the ears, In the latitude of Albany, New-York, it has always a tinge of
reddish-brown, more conspicuous in some specimens than in others, giving it a
wavy appearance, especially when the animal is running, or when the fur is in
the least agitated.  In the winter season the hair is plumbeous at base, then
reddish, and is broadly tipped with white.  The parts of the body which are the
last to assume the white change, are the forehead and shoulders; we have two
winter-killed specimens before us that have the forehead, and a patch on the
shoulders, brown.  On the under surface, the fur in most specimens is white,
even to the roots.  A few long black hairs arise above and beneath the eyes, and
extend backwards.  The soles have a yellowish soiled appearance.
     We possess a specimen of the young, about half grown, which in its general
aspect resembles the adult; the colour of the back, however, is a shade darker,
and the under surface an ashy white.  The black edge is very conspicuous on the
outer rim of the ear, and some of the whiskers are of unusual length, reaching
beyond the head to the middle of the ear.  The tail is very short, black above,
and grayish-white beneath.  The young become white in the autumn of the first
year, but assume their winter colouring a little later in the season than the
adults.  We have met with some specimens in the New-York markets, late in
January, in which the change of colour was very partial, the summer pelage still


     The size and weight of the Northern hare we have found to vary very much.
The measurements hitherto given were generally taken from stuffed specimens,
which afford no very accurate indications of the size of the animal when living,
or when recently killed.  Dr. GODMAN, on the authority of Prince CHARLES LUCIEN
BONAPARTE, gives the measurement of a recent specimen as thirty-one inches, and
Dr. HARLAN'S measurement of the same specimen after it had been stuffed was
sixteen inches.  We think it probable that the Prince and the Doctor adopted
different modes of measuring.  All stuffed specimens shrink very much; of a
dozen now in our collection, there is not one that measures more than eighteen
inches from point of nose to root of tail, and several white adults measure but
fifteen inches.
     The following measurements are from the largest specimen we have procured,
taken when the animal was recently killed.



     From point of nose to root of tail.  .  .  .  .  . 19 1/4
     Tail (vertebrae).  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  1 1/4
     Tail to end of hair.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  2 1/4
     From heel to end of middle claw.  .  .  .  .  .  .  5 1/2
     Height of ear.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  3 1/2

     Another specimen of moderate size.                Inches.

     From point of nose to root of tail.  .  .  .  .  . 16
     Tail (vertebrae).  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  1 1/2
     Tail to end of hair.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  2 1/2
     From heel to end of middle claw.  .  .  .  .  .  .  5 1/4
     Height of ear.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  3 1/2
     Weight:--This species in the beginning of winter varies from three to six
and a half pounds, but we consider 5 1/2 pounds to be the average weight of a
full-grown animal in good condition.


     Our different species of Hares, and more especially the present one and the
little gray rabbit, have been so much mixed up in the accounts of authors, that
great confusion exists in regard to their habits, and their specific identity.
The assertion of WARDEN, that the American Hare retreats into hollow trees when
pursued, applies to the gray rabbit, for which it was no doubt intended, but not
to the Northern Hare.  We are not aware that the latter ever takes shelter
either in a hole in the earth, or in a hollow tree.  We have seen it chased by
hounds for whole days, and have witnessed the repetition of these hunts for
several successive winters, without ever knowing it to seek concealment or
security in such places.  It depends on its long legs, and on the thickness of
the woods, to aid it in evading the pursuit of its enemies.  When hunted, it
winds and doubles among thick clusters of young pines and scrub-oaks, or leads
the dogs through entangled patches of hemlock and spruce fir, until it sometimes
wearies out its pursuers; and unless the hunter should appear, and stop its
career with the gun, it is almost certain to escape.
     In deep snows, the animal is so light, and is so well supported by its
broad furry-feet, that it passes over the surface making only a faint
impression, whilst the hounds plunge deep into the snow at every bound, and soon
give up the hopeless pursuit.  It avoids not only open grounds, but even open
woods, and confines itself to the densest and most impenetrable forests.
Although it wanders by night in many directions in search of its appropriate
food, we have scarcely ever seen its tracks in the open fields; it seems
cautiously to avoid the cabbage and turnip fields of the farmer, and seldom even
in the most retired places makes an encroachment on his cultivated grounds.  The
food of this species in summer consists of various kinds of juicy and tender
grasses, and the bark, leaves, and buds, of several small shrubs; and these
Hares seem to be particularly fond of the young twigs of the wild allspice
(Laurus benzoin), but in winter, when the earth is covered with snow, they gain
a precarious subsistence from the buds and bark of such trees as are suited to
their taste.  Sometimes they scratch up the snow to feed on the leaves and
berries of the various species of Pyrola, found in the Northern States.  The
bark of the willow, birch and poplar, and the buds of young pines, are sought
after by them with avidity.  We have seen persons in the Northern part of the
State of New-York, who were desirous of shooting these animals by moonlight,
watching near American black-poplar trees (Populus Hudsonica), which they had
cut down for the purpose of attracting them to feed on their buds and tender
twigs, in which they were often successful.  Some of these Hares which we had in
a domesticated state, were fed on cabbage leaves, turnips, parsnips, potatoes
and sweet apples.  During one very cold winter, when these could not be
conveniently obtained, they were frequently supplied with clover-hay, to which,
when more agreeable food was not given them, they did not evince any aversion;
from time to time also, outer branches of willow, poplar or apple trees, were
thrown into their enclosure, the bark of which seemed to be greatly relished by
     The Northern Hare, like most others of the genus, seeks its food only by
night or in the early part of the evening.  To this habit it is more exclusively
confined during autumn and winter, than in spring and summer.  In the latter
seasons, especially in spring, these animals are frequently observed in the
morning, and as the sun is declining, in the afternoon, cautiously proceeding
along some solitary by-path of the forest.  Two or three may often be seen
associated together, appearing full of activity and playfulness.  When disturbed
on these occasions, they stamp on the ground, making a noise so loud that it can
be heard at some distance, then hopping a few yards into the thicket, they sit
with ears erect, seemingly listening, to ascertain whether they are pursued or
not.  This habit of thumping on the earth is common to most hares and rabbits.
We have particularly noticed it in the domesticated rabbit (L. cuniculus), and
in our common gray rabbit.  They are more particularly in the habit of doing it
on moonlight nights; it is indicative either of fear or anger, and is a frequent
action among the males when they meet in combat. During cold weather this Hare
retires to its form at early dawn, or shelters itself under the thick foliage of
fallen tree tops, particularly those of the pine and hemlock.  It occasionally
retires to the same cover for a number of nights in succession, but this habit
is by no means common; and the sportsman who expects on some succeeding day to
find this animal in the place from which it was once started, is likely to be
disappointed; although we are not aware, that any other of our species of hare
are so attached to particular and beaten paths through the woods, as the one now
under consideration.  It nightly pursues these paths, not only during the deep
snows of winter, but for a period of several years, if not killed or taken,
wandering through them even during summer.  We have seen a dozen caught at one
spot in snares composed of horse-hair or brass wire, in the course of a winter,
and when the snow had disappeared and the spring was advanced, others were still
captured in the same way, and in the same paths.
     The period of gestation in this species is believed to be, (although we
cannot speak with positive certainty,) about six weeks.  Two females which we
domesticated, and kept in a warren, produced young, one on the tenth and the
other on the fifteenth of May; one had four, and the other six leverets, which
were deposited on a nest of straw the inside of which was lined with a
considerable quantity of hair plucked from their bodies.  They succeeded in
rearing all their young but one, which was killed by the male of a common
European rabbit.  They were not again gravid during that season.  Ill health,
and more important studies, required us to be absent for six months, and when we
returned, all our pets had escaped to the woods, therefore we could not
satisfactorily finish the observations on their habits in confinement, which had
interested and amused us in many a leisure hour.
     We, however, think it probable that the females in their wild state may
produce young twice during the season.  Those referred to above were much
harassed by other species which were confined in the same warren, and might
therefore have been less prolific than if they had enjoyed their liberty
undisturbed, amid the recesses of their native woods.  We have frequently
observed the young of the Northern Hare in May, and again in July.  These last
must have been either from a second litter, or the produce of a young female of
the previous year.  The young, at birth, were able to see.  They were covered
with short hair, and appeared somewhat darker in colour than the adults, at that
season.  They left their nest in ten or twelve days, and from that time seemed
to provide for themselves, and to derive little sustenance or protection from
their mothers.  The old males at this period seemed to be animated with renewed
courage; they had previously suffered themselves to be chased and worried by the
common English rabbit, and even retreated from the attacks of the gray rabbit;
but they now stood their ground, and engaged in fierce combats with the other
prisoners confined with them, and generally came off victorious.  They stamped
with their feet, used their teeth and claws to a fearful purpose, and in the
fight tore off patches of skin and mutilated the ears of their former
persecutors, till they were left in undisturbed possession of the premises!
     The males did not evince the vicious propensity to destroy their young
which is observed in the domesticated English rabbit; on the contrary, they
would frequently sit beside their little family, when they were but a day or two
old, seeming to enjoy their playfulness and to watch their progress to maturity.
     The Northern Hare seems during summer to prefer dry and elevated
situations, and to be more fond of grounds covered with pines and firs, than of
those that are overgrown with oak or hickory.  The swamps and marshes soil their
feet, and after having been compelled to pass through them, they are for hours
employed in rubbing and drying their paws.  In winter, however, when such places
are hardened by the frost, they not only have paths through them in every
direction, but occasionally seek a fallen tree-top as a hiding or resting place,
in the centre of a swamp.  We have observed them in great numbers in an almost
impenetrable thicket of black larch, or hackmatack, (Larix pendula,)
considerable portions of which were during summer a perfect morass.  In what are
called the "bark clearings," places where hemlock trees have been cut down to
procure tan bark, this species is sometimes so abundant that twenty or thirty of
them may be started in a day's walk.
     As an article of food, this is the most indifferent of all our species of
Hares; its flesh is hard, dry, almost juiceless, possessing none of the flavour
of the English hare, and much inferior to that of our gray rabbit.  Epicures,
however, who often regard as dainties dishes that are scarce, and who, by the
skilful application of the culinary art possess means ot rendering things
savoury that are of themselves insipid, may dispute this point with us.
     The Northern Hare, as is proverbially the case with all the species, has
many enemies.  It is pursued by men and dogs, by carnivorous beasts of the
forest, by eagles, by hawks, and by owls.  In the northern parts of Maine, in
Canada, and in the countries farther north, their most formidable enemies are
the Canada lynx, (Lynx Canadensis,) the jer falcon, (Falco Islandicus,) and the
snowy owl, (Surnea nyctea.)  In the New England States, however, and in
New-York, the red-tailed hawk, (Buteo Borealis,) is occasionally seen with one
of these species in its talons.  But its most formidable enemy is the great
horned owl, (Bubo Virginianus.)  We have also, on one occasion, observed a
common house-cat dragging a full grown Northern Hare from the woods, to feed her
young. Lads on their way to school, entrap them with snares attached to a bent
twig, placed along the paths they nightly resort to.  The hunter finds
recreation in pursuing them with hounds, whilst he places himself in some
wood-path where they were last seen to pass.  The Hare runs from fifty to a
hundred yards ahead of the dogs, and in its windings and turnings to escape from
them frequently returns to the spot where the hunter is stationed, and falls by
a shot from his gun.
     The Northern Hare, when rapidly pursued, makes such great efforts to
escape, that the poor creature (as we have said already) is occasionally
successful, and fairly outruns the hounds, whilst the hunter is cunningly
avoided by it when doubling.  After one of these hard chases, however, we have
known the animal die from the fatigue it had undergone, or from having been
overheated.  We once saw one, which had been closely pressed by the dogs nearly
all the afternoon, return to a thicket after the hounds had been called off and
the sportsmen had given up the vain pursuit.  Next morning we examined the place
to which it had retired, and to our surprise, discovered the hare sitting in its
form, under a dwarfish, crooked, pine-bush; it was covered with snow and quite
dead.  In this instance the hare had no doubt been greatly overheated by the
race of the preceding day, as well as exhausted and terrified; and the poor
thing being in that condition very susceptible of cold was probably chilled by
the night air and the falling snow, until its palpitating heart, gradually
impelling the vital fluid with fainter and slower pulsations, at length ceased
its throbbings forever.
     Sometimes we have found these Hares dead in the woods after the melting of
the snow in the Spring, and on examination we found they were entangled in
portions of wire snares, frequently entwined round their necks, from which they
had been unable to extricate themselves.
     This species when caught alive cannot be taken into the hand like the gray
rabbit, with impunity; the latter, when seized by the ears or hind-legs soon
becomes quiet and is harmless; but the Northern Hare struggles to escape, and
makes a formidable resistance with its teeth and nails.  On one occasion a
servant who was expert at catching the gray rabbit in traps, came to us with a
rueful countenance holding a hare in his hands, exhibiting at the same time
sundry severe scratches he had received, showing us his torn clothes, and a
place on his leg which the animal had bitten, and declaring that he had caught
"a rabbit as cross as a cat."  We ascertained it to be a Northern Hare in its
summer dress, and although its captor had not been able to distinguish it from
the gray rabbit by its colour, he certainly received a practical lesson in
natural history which he did not soon forget.
     A living individual of this species, which we have in Charleston in a
partially domesticated state, for the purpose of trying to ascertain the effect
of a warm climate on its changes of colour, is particularly cross when
approached by a stranger.  It raises its fur, and springs at the intruder with
almost a growl, and is ready with its claws and teeth to gratify its rage, and
inflict a wound on the person who has aroused its ire.  When thus excited, it
reminded us by its attitudes of an angry racoon.
     The skin of the Northern Hare is so tender and easily torn, and the fur is
so apt to be spoiled and drop off on being handled, that it is difficult to
prepare perfect specimens for the naturalist's cabinet.  The pelt is not in much
request among the furriers, and is regarded by the hatter as of little value.
The hind-feet, however, are used by the latter in a part of the process by which
the soft, glossy, surface is imparted to his fabric, and answer the purpose of a
soft hat-brush.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     This species is found in portions of the British possessions, as far as the
sixty-eighth parallel of North latitude.  It is, however, confined to the
Eastern portion of our Continent; RICHARDSON, who represents it as "a common
animal from one extremity of the Continent to the other," seems to have mistaken
for it another species which replaces it on the North West coast.  Although it
does not range as far to the North as the Polar hare, it is decidedly a Northern
species; it is found at Hudson's Bay, in Newfoundland, Canada, all the
New-England States, and in the Northern portions of New-York, Pennsylvania, and
Ohio.  Mr. DOUGHTY informed us that he procured a specimen on the Alleghany
Mountains in the Northern part of Virginia, Lat. 40 degrees 29 minutes, where it
had never before been observed by the inhabitants.  On seeking for it afterwards
in the locality from which he obtained it, we were unsuccessful, and we are
inclined to believe that it is only occasionally that some straggler wanders so
far South among these mountains, and that its Southern limit may be set down at
about 40 degrees.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     The history of this Hare has been attempted from time to time, by early and
recent travellers and naturalists, and most of their accounts of it are only
sources of perplexity, and additional difficulties in the way of the naturalist
of the present day.  Strange mistakes were committed by some of those who wrote
on the subject, from PENNANT down to HARLAN, GODMAN, and others still later; and
one error appears to have led to another, until even the identity of the species
meant to be described by different authors, was finally involved in an almost
inextricable web of embarrassment.
     As far as we have been able to ascertain, the Northern Hare was first
noticed by SAGARD THEODAT, (Hist. de Canada,) in 1636.  KALM, (who travelled in
America from 1748 to 1751, and whose work was published in the Swedish language,
and soon after translated into German and English,) speaks of this species as
follows:--"Hares are likewise said to be plentiful even in Hudson's Bay, and
they are abundant in Canada, where I have often seen, and found them perfectly
corresponding with our Swedish hares.  In summer they have a brownish-gray, and
in winter a snowy-white colour, as with us."  (KALM's Travels, &c., vol. ii., p.
45. English translation.)
     This judicious and intelligent traveller, undoubtedly here referred to the
Northern Hare.  He supposed it to be identical with the Alpine or variable Hare,
(Lepus variabilis,) which is found in Sweden and other Northern countries of
Europe.  That species is a little larger than the Northern Hare, and the tips of
its ears are black; but although it is a distinct, species, it so nearly
resembles the latter, that several authors, GODMAN not excepted, were induced to
regard these two species as identical.  KALM, (see vol. i., p. 105, Eng.
trans.,) whilst he was in the vicinity of Philadelphia, where the Northern Hare
never existed, gave a correct account of another species, the American gray
rabbit, which we will notice more in detail when we describe that animal.  It is
very evident that in these two notices of American hares, KALM had reference to
two distinct species, and that he pointed out those distinctive marks by which
they are separated.  If subsequent authors confounded the two species, and
created confusion, their errors evidently cannot be owing to any fault of the
eminent Swedish traveller.
     The first specimens of the Northern Hare that appeared in Europe, were sent
by the servants of the Hudson's Bay Company to England in 1771, (see Phil.
Trans., vol. lxii., p. 13.)  There were four specimens in the collection,
exhibiting the various gradations of colour.  In addition to these, a living
animal of the same species was received about the same time, probably by the
same ship.  It was brought to the notice of the Philosophical Society, in a
letter from the Hon. DAINES BARRINGTON, read 16th January, 1772.  This letter is
interesting, since it gives us some idea of the, state of natural science in
England, at that early day.  The animal had for some time remained alive, but
had died in the previous November.  It had at that time already changed its
summer colour, and become nearly white.  It was boiled, in order to ascertain
whether it was a hare or a rabbit, as according to RAY, if the flesh was brown
it was a hare, if white a rabbit.  It proved to be brown, and was declared to be
a hare.  The test was strange enough, but the conclusion was correct.  In May of
the same year, J. R. FORSTER, Esq., F. R. S., described this, among twenty
quadrupeds, that had been sent from Hudson's Bay.  After giving an account of
the manner in which it was captured by snares made of brass wire and pack
thread, he designates its size as "bigger than the rabbit, but less than the
Alpine hare."  In this he was quite correct.  He then goes on to show that its
hind-feet are longer in proportion to the body than those of the rabbit and
common hare, &e.  He finally speaks of its habits, and here his first error
occurs.  KALM'S accounts of two different species were supposed by him to refer
to one species only, and whilst the Northern Hare was described--some of the
habits of the American gray rabbit were incorrectly referred to it.
     As, however, FORSTER gave it no specific name and his description on the
whole was but a loose one, it was left to another naturalist to give it a
scientific appellation.
     In 1777, ERXLEBEN gave the first scientific description of it and named it
Lepus Americanus.  SCHREBER, (as we are prepared to show in our article on Lepus
sylvaticus,) published an account of it immediately afterwards, under the name
of Lepus nanus.
     This description, as may easily be seen, was principally taken from
FORSTER.  SCHOEPFF about the same period, and PALLAS in 1778, under the name, of
L. Hudsonicus, and PENNANT in 1780, under that of American hare, followed each
other in quick succession.
     In GMELIN'S LINNAEUS, (1788,) it is very imperfectly described in one
single line.  All these authors copied the error of FORSTER in giving to the
Northern Hare the habits of the American gray rabbit.
     In the work of DESMAREST, (Mammalogie, ou description des especes de
Mammifires, p. 351, Paris, 1820,) a description is given of "Esp. Lievre
d'Amerique, Lepus Americanus."  This, however, instead of being a description of
the true L. Americanus of all previous authors, is in most particulars a pretty
good description of our gray rabbit.  HARLAN,  who published his Fauna in 1825,
translated and published this description very literally, even to its faults,
(see Fauna Americana, p. 196.)  Having thus erroneously disposed of the gray
rabbit under the name of L. Americanus, the true Lepus Americanus was named by
him L. Virginianus!  The following year, Dr. GODMAN gave a description of the
Northern Hare, referring it to the Lepus variabilis of Europe!  After Dr.
RICHARDSON'S return from his perilous journey through the Polar regions, he
prepared in England his valuable Fauna Boreali Americana, which was published in
1829.  Specimens labelled L. Americanus of ERXLEBEN, were still in the British
Museum, and he published descriptions of his own specimens under that name. The
gray rabbit did not come within the range of his investigations, but having
received a hunter's skin from the vicinity of the Columbia river, he supposed it
to be the L. Virginianus of HARLAN, and described it under that name.  This
skin, however, has since proved to belong to a different species; the Northern
Hare not being found in the regions bordering that river.  In 1837, having
several new species of Hare to describe, we began to look into this subject, and
endeavoured to correct the errors in regard to the species, that had crept into
the works of various authors.  We had not seen ERXLEBEN's work, and supposing
that the species were correctly designated, we published our views of the
habits, &c., of the two species, (whose identity and proper cognomen we have, we
hope, just established,) under the old names of L. Virginianus and L.
Americanus, (see Jour. of Acad. of Nat. Sciences of Phila., vol. vii., pl. 2. p.
282.)  The article had scarcely been printed, before we obtained a copy of
ERXLEBEN, and we immediately perceived and corrected the errors that had been
committed, giving the Northern Hare its correct name, L. Americanus, and
bestowing on the gray rabbit, which, through the mistakes we have already
described had been left without any name, that of Lepus sylvaticus, (Jour. Acad.
Nat. Sciences of Phil., vol. vii., p. 403.)  The reasons for this arrangement
were given in our remarks on the genus LEPUS, in a subsequent paper, (Jour.
Acad. Sc., vol. viii., pl. 1, p. 75,) where we characterized a number of
additional new species.  In 1842, Dr. DEKAY, (see Nat. Hist. of New-York, p.
95,) acceding to this arrangement of the Northern Hare under the specific name
of L. Americanus, remarks, "This Hare was first vaguely indicated by ERXLEBEN in
1777."  In a spirit of great fairness, however, that author's original
description was published at the foot of the article.
     In order to set this matter at rest, remove this species from the false
position in which it has so long stood, and give its first describer the credit
to which he is entitled, we will here insert the description above alluded to.
     "Lepus Americanus, L. cauda abbreviate; pedibus posticis corpore dimidio
longioribus; auricularum caudoque apicibus griseis.
     "Die Hasen--KALM, Hudson's Bay Quadrup., BARRINGTON, Phil. Trans. vol.
lxii., p. 376.  Magnitudine medius inter L. cuniculum et timidum Alpinum, (sc.
L. timidus, FORSTER, Phil. Trans. vol. lxii., p. 375.) Auriculanum et caudae,
apices perpetuo grisei--Pedes postici longiores quam in L. timido et cuniculo,
color griseo-fuscus; Hieme in frigidioribus albus.
     "Habitat in America boreali ad fretum Hudsoni copiosissimus, nocturnus.
Non foedit, degit sub arborum radicibus, inque cavis arboribus.  Parit bis vel
semel in anno; pullos quinque ad septem; caro bona, colore L. timidi."
     In great deference, we would submit whether the above is not more than a
"vague indication" of a species.  To us it appears a tolerably full description
for the era in which the author lived and considering the few species of Hare
then known.
     There were at that early period but three Hares with which naturalists were
familiar:--L. timidus, the common European Hare; L. variabilis, the variable
Hare; and L. cuniculus, the European burrowing rabbit.  With these ERXLEBEN
compares this species in size and colour.  With the exception of one of the
habits he mentions, this description appears to us creditable to him.  There
have been many occasions, when, perplexed in guessing at the species intended to
be described by old authors, (the Father of natural history, LINNAEUS himself,
not excepted,) we would have hailed a description like this, as a light in
darkness.  The species ERXLEBEN had in view cannot be mistaken; he describes it
very correctly as "magnitudine medius inter L. cuniculum et timidum Alpinum."
Our American gray rabbit, instead of being intermediate between L. cuniculus and
the Alpine hare, is smaller than either.  "Pedes postici longiores quam in L.
timido et cuniculo."  The long hind-feet are distinctive marks of the Northern
Hare; but those of our gray rabbit are much shorter than those of L. timidus, or
common hare of Europe.  "Hieme in frigidioribus albus."  Our gray rabbit,
contrary to the assertion of most authors, does not become white in winter in
any latitude.  "Habitat in America boreali ad fretum Hudsoni copiosissimus."
Dr. RICHARDSON, and every Northern traveller with whom we have conversed, have
assured us that our gray rabbit does not exist at Hudson's Bay, where the
Northern Hare is quite abundant, find where that and the Polar hare, (the last
named species existing still further North,) are the only species to be found.
We have examined and compared the original specimen described by Dr. RICHARDSON,
and also those in the British Museum that have successively replaced the
specimens first sent to England, and find that they all belong to this species.
In fact our gray rabbit is very little known in England or Scotland; since,
after an examination of all the principal Museums in those countries, we met
with but two specimens, one of which was not named, and the other was not
improperly labelled, "Lepus Americanus Harlan, non Erxleben."
     The rigid rule of priority will always preserve for the Northern Hare the
name of L. Americanus, whilst L. nanus, L. Hudsonicus, and L. Virginianus.  must
be set down merely as synonymes.