63 Black-tailed Hare
LEPUS CALLOTIS.--Wagler. [Lepus Californicus] BLACK TAILED HARE. [Black-tailed Jack Rabbit] PLATE LXIII.--MALE. L. magnitudine, L. glacialem adaequans, supra flavescente fusco canoque varius, subtus albus; auribus pedibusque praelongis, cauda longa, nigra.
CHARACTERS. Size of the polar hare; ears and legs, very long; tail, long and black; mottled with gray and yellowish-brown above, beneath, white. SYNONYMES. LEPUS CALLOTIS, Wagler, 1832. LEPUS NIGRICAUDATUS, Bennett, Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1833, p. 41, marked in the Catalogue of the Zoological Society, 582. LEPUS NIGRICAUDATUS, Bachman, Journal of the Academy Nat. Sciences, philadelphia, vol. vii., pt. 1, p. 84, an. 1839. DESCRIPTION. This interesting species is similar to others composing a certain group of hares found in America, characterized by being large, and having very long ears, and long and slender legs and bodies, the whole form indicating capacity for long leaps and rapid locomotion. In all these characteristics, Lepus Callotis approaches nearest to TOWNSEND's hare, (Lepus Townsendii,) which may be considered the type of this group. COLOUR. The whole of the upper surface, fawn colour, tipped with black; hairs on the back, silvery gray for one-third of their length, then pale fawn, then black, then fawn, tipped with black. Back of the neck, brownish black, slightly tipped with fawn. A number of hairs of unusual length, (two and one-fourth inches,) and delicately interspersed along the sides; in the greatest abundance along the shoulders. These hairs are black from the base for two-thirds of their length, the remainder pale fawn; sides, and under parts of the neck, dingy pale fawn, gradually becoming white on the chest; haunches, legs and under surface white; the hairs on the rump annulated with black, and near the root of the tail almost entirely black; the whole of the tail on the upper surface to the extremity black; on the under surface the hairs are black from the roots, slightly tipped with grayish brown. Hairs on the under surface of the feet, in some specimens red, in others a soiled yellowish-brown. Ears, posteriorly for two-thirds of their breadth black at the roots, gradually blending into fawn, and on the inner third the longitudinal line of demarcation being very distinct; this fawn colour is mixed with black hairs, edged at the tip with black, the remainder of the edge fawn; the outer margin of the posterior surface to its apex pure white. Inner surface of the ears nearly naked, except at the outer edge, where they are clothed with short grizzled brown hairs. Whiskers white and black, the former predominating; chin and throat, white. The marginal line of demarcation between the colour of the back and that of the under surface, is somewhat abrupt across the upper portion of the thighs, and very distinctly marked. DIMENSIONS. Inches. Length from point of nose to root of tail,. . . . . . 20 Tail (vertebrae), . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1/2 Tail including fur, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1/2 From heel to longest nail, . . . . . . . . . . . 4 3/4 Head over the curve, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 1/2 From eye to nose, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3/4 Ears posteriorly, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 3/4 Greatest breadth, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1/3 HABITS. Our account of this species is principally derived from the journals of J. W. AUDUBON, kept during his journey through part of Texas, made for the purpose of procuring the animals of that State, and obtaining some knowledge of their habits for our present work, in 1845 and 1846, with an extract from which we now present our readers. "One fine morning in January, 1845, at San Antonio de Bexar, as I mounted my faithful one-eyed chesnut horse, admiring his thin neck and bony legs, his delicate head and flowing flaxen tail and mane, I was saluted with a friendly good morning by Mr. CALAHAN, then holding the important office of mayor of the little village; and on his ascertaining that my purpose was to have a morning hunt on the prairies and through the chapparal, which I did day after day, he agreed to accompany me in search of the animals I was anxiously trying to obtain, and in quest of which I rode over miles of prairie with my bridle on the knobbed pummel of my Texan saddle, the most comfortable saddle I have ever tried, (being a sort of half Spanish, half English build,) my horse with his neck stretched out and his head about on a level with his shoulders, walking between four and five miles an hour, turning to the right or to the left agreeably to the slightest movement of my body, so well was he trained, leaving both hands and eyes free, so that I could search with the latter every twig, tussock or thicket, and part the thick branches of the chapparal of musquit, prickly holly, and other shrubs, which I am inclined to think quite equal to any East-Indian jungle in offering obstructions to the progress of either horse or man. Mr. CALAHAN having mounted, we set out, and after about an hour's hard work, occupied in crossing one of the thickest covers near the town, gained the broad and nearly level prairie beyond, across which to the west we could see varied swelling undulations, gradually fading into the faint outline of a distant spur, perhaps of the rocky chain of mountains that in this latitude lie between the water courses flowing toward the Gulf of Mexico, and the streams that empty into the Gulf of California: so far away indeed seemed these faint blue peaks that it required but a little stretch of the imagination to fancy the plains of California but just at the other side. I was enchanted with the scene, scarcely knowing whether the brilliant fore-ground of cacti and tropical plants, the soft indefinite distance, or the clear summer blue sky, was most beautiful. My companion observing my enthusiasm, warmed into praises of his adopted country, he had, he said, fought hard for it, and exclaimed, it is a country worth fighting for; when my reply, of whatever nature it might have been, was prevented, and all ideas of blue mountains, vast rolling prairies, &c., were cut short by a jackass rabbit bounding from under our horses' feet; he was instantly followed by my worthy friend the mayor at full speed on his white pony, to my great annoyance, for otherwise he would have stopped in a hundred yards or so. Away they went, and as my friend's horse was a running nag, he doubtless expected to overtake the Hare, which had only gained about fifty yards start during our momentary surprise. The Hare, as I quickly observed, did not make much shorter leaps than the horse. I could see it at each bound appear like a jack-o'-lantern floating with the breeze over a swamp, but in less time than I have taken to write this, they had ran a mile, the Hare doubled and was a hundred yards in advance, but could not stop and look behind, for he had such a race that he, knew well no time was to be lost in gaining some bed of cactus or chapparal. Now on came both Hare and hunter, and the race was of the swiftest when another double caused the rider to pull up with such force that his stirrup leather broke, and the space between the mayor and the object of his pursuit was widened to a quarter of a mile, and the chase ended; our friend dismounting to refit. We had not the good fortune to start another of these hares that day. Some time afterwards while at Castroville, a little place of about a dozen huts and one house, this Hare was procured by a party of Indians and brought to J. W. AUDUBON, who writes: "I chanced to be visited by some of the Shawnee Indians who were in the neighbourhood on a hunting expedition. They were highly astonished and pleased with my drawings, which I exhibited to them while trying to explain what animals I wanted. I made a hasty sketch of a hare with immensely long ears, at which I pointed with an approving nod of the head, and then made another sketch smaller and with shorter ears, at which last I shook my head and made wry faces; the Indians laughed, and by their gutteral eugh, haugh, li, gave me to understand that they comprehended me; and in a day or two, I had a beautiful specimen of the Black-tailed Hare brought to me, but with the head shot off by a rifle ball. The Indians were quite disappointed that it did not answer my purpose, and smoothed down the fur on the body, which is the only part of the skin they generally preserve, and what they thought I wanted. The specimen I drew from was shot by POWEL, one of Colonel HAYS' rangers, from whom I received many attentions and who acted most kindly while with me on one of my excursions from San Antonio. This Hare is so rare in those parts of Texas that I visited, that I can say little of its habits. It appears to be solitary, or nearly so, fond of high open prairie with clumps of trees, or rather bushes and thickets about them, trusting to its speed for safety and only taking cover from hawks and eagles. Near San Petruchio, as I was informed, this Hare is more abundant than in this vicinity, and two or three of them can occasionally be started in a morning's ride." The specimen from which Mr. BENNETT described and named this Hare (Lepus nigricaudatus, Bennett, Zoological Proceedings, 1833, p. 41), has a more definitely marked line of white along the sides and legs than the one I drew from; but this species varies so much in its markings, that one figure with the characters given is probably as like the majority as another. The line of white and black near the tip of the ears extended longitudinally, is by many considered a good specific character, but it does not, I think, hold out in respect to this animal. It is singular that this fine species of Hare should be so rare in the collections of Europe; I saw only two, and did not hear of the existence of any in the museums which I had not an opportunity of examining. Since the Mexican war broke out, several have been sent home by our officers. We have the pleasure of acknowledging the receipt of a fine skin from Lieutenant ABERT, who also favoured us with some skins of quadrupeds from the vicinity of Santa Fe, which we shall have occasion to notice elsewhere, and for which we return him our best thanks. This species is called the Jackass Rabbit in Texas, owing to the length of its ears. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. This Hare is found as far north as Santa Fe, in the great prairies; it does not, however, occur near the shores of the lower Red River, nor near the Gulf of Mexico indeed, until we get as far south as about latitude 30 degrees, from which parallel to the southward it becomes more abundant, and may be said to be the common Hare of Mexico. Whether it is found beyond the limits of North America we are unable to say, but suppose not, as the museums of Europe have been better supplied with South American species than with those of our northern portion of the Western hemisphere, and as already observed, do not contain more than the two specimens mentioned above, one of which is stated to have been received from Mexico and the other from California. GENERAL REMARKS. There is a specimen in the Berlin Museum, labelled Lepus Callotis, WAGLER, described by him in 1832. This specimen corresponds in all essential particulars with that which exists in the Zoological Museum of London, described by BENNETT. Hence we are obliged to adopt WAGLER's name, he having the priority as the first scientific describer.