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The myth of the mad March hare

Nature volume 309, pages 549550 (07 June 1984) | Download Citation

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Abstract

From literature1, proverb2 and scientific publications3–6, two aspects of the behaviour of the brown hare, Lepus capensis, are well known. First, they ‘go mad’ in March. Second, boxing is their most spectacular form of male–male competition for mates. Here we show that ‘madness’ is no more a feature of March than of the other months of their long breeding season, and that boxing does not represent intrasexual competition but an interaction between the sexes whereby a female attempts to prevent a male from mating. Finally, we discuss why misleading statements about hare behaviour have remained unchallenged for centuries.

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References

  1. 1.

    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1982).

  2. 2.

    Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (Cassei, Fetter & Galpin, London, 1894).

  3. 3.

    The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (Murray, London, 1871).

  4. 4.

    British Game (Collins New Naturalist, London, 1946).

  5. 5.

    British Mammals (Collins New Naturalist, London, 1952).

  6. 6.

    J. Zool. 174, 1–14 (1974).

  7. 7.

    & The Handbook of British Mammals 2nd edn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1977).

  8. 8.

    & Acta theriol. 20, 247–254 (1975).

  9. 9.

    & J. Zool. 193, 499–516 (1981).

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    & Z. Säugetierk. 47, 22–32 (1982).

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    & Science 197, 215–223 (1977).

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Ferndale, Wick Lane, Brent Knoll, Highbridge, Somerset TA9 4BU, UK

    • Anthony J. F. Holley
  2. Department of Adult and Continuing Education, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3JB, UK

    • Paul J. Greenwood

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/309549a0

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