Tehuantepec hare characteristics, habitat, feeding

Robert Johnston
Tehuantepec hare characteristics, habitat, feeding

The Tehuantepec hare (Lepus flavigularis) is a placental mammal that is part of the Leporidae family. It is distinguished from the other lagomorphs by the two dark stripes that start from the nape, at the base of both ears, and reach the rump. Its body is covered by a rough fur that, dorsally and in the throat, is grayish brown, with black tints. In contrast, the ventral area is white.

The Lepus flavigularis it has a restricted distribution to the southern zone of Mexico, around the Gulf of Tehuantepec. In terms of its habitat, it includes woody grasslands, coastal dunes and prairies, with abundant shrubs and grasses. The regions where this species lives are not located above 500 meters above sea level..

Tehauntepec Hare. Source: Tamara Mila Rioja Paradela / Conabio

The Tehuantepec hare is behaviorally and physiologically adapted to arid environments. In this sense, its long and large ears function as efficient heat radiators. In addition, this mammal has twilight and nocturnal habits, moments in which the external temperature is lower..

Article index

  • 1 Features
    • 1.1 Fur
    • 1.2 Size
    • 1.3 Skull
    • 1.4 Teeth
  • 2 Taxonomy
  • 3 Habitat and distribution
    • 3.1 - Distribution
    • 3.2 - Habitat
    • 3.3 - Home ranges
    • 3.4 - Description of the vegetation
  • 4 Phylogenetics
  • 5 Conservation status
    • 5.1 - Threats
    • 5.2 - Actions
  • 6 Food
    • 6.1 Digestive process
  • 7 Playback
  • 8 Behavior
  • 9 References 


The Tehuantepec hare has a slender body, with highly developed hind legs, adapted for long runs. As for the ears, they can measure up to 12 centimeters.

This species, like all of its genus, has a highly developed sense of hearing. Thanks to this, the animal can detect its predators, even if they are at a long distance.


Its coat is rough and grayish-brown with black tints, on the dorsal area and on the throat. In contrast, the ventral area is white.

The Lepus flavigularis It is distinguished from the other free ones by the two black stripes that start at the base of the ears and extend the entire length of the back. These gradually thin out until they reach the back of the body..

In relation to the rump, it is gray and the tail is black in the upper part and gray in the lower part. The inner area of ​​the ears is tan yellow, dark or beige, with the tip ending in a black border.

The hind limbs are two-toned: the back is gray and the front is white. As for the front limbs, they have a grayish-white or iron-gray color, which fades, becoming paler on the legs..

The hair varies during the fall and spring. In the autumn coat, the dorsal area and the sides of the head turn ocher in color. In contrast, in the spring, the hair becomes more worn, with the upper areas discolored to a more yellowish hue. In addition, the black stripes on the neck appear as spots behind the ears..


The Tehuantepec hare can show differences in size, in relation to the geographic range it occupies. Thus, the species that inhabit Santa María del Mar are significantly larger than those in other regions where this lagomorph lives..

In general, adults have an approximate weight of 3.5 and 4.5 kilograms. Its body has a length between 55 and 60 centimeters, with a tail that measures 6.5 to 9.5 centimeters.


The skull of the L. flavigularis it is long, with wide and short post orbital and supraorbital processes. As for the muzzle, it is laterally compressed. This has a high arch, which widens towards the tip.


The Tehuantepec hare has 28 teeth. In the upper jaw, it has 2 pairs of incisors, which are covered in enamel. The front pair is larger and sharp, while the incisors behind these are small and lacking in sharpness..

The long front teeth grow continuously, due to the wear they suffer when cutting the woody surfaces of the plants that make up their diet.


-Animal Kingdom.

-Subkingdom: Bilateria

-Phylum: Chordate.

-Subfilum: Vertebrate.

-Superclass: Tetrapoda.

-Class: Mammal.

-Subclass: Theria.

-Infraclass: Eutheria.

-Order: Lagomorpha.

-Family: Leporidae.

-Genus: Lepus.

-Species: Lepus flavigularis.

Habitat and distribution

- Distribution

The Tehuantepec hare is endemic to Oaxaca, Mexico. The historical range of this species covered the entire Mexican Pacific coast, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Thus, previously it was from Salina Cruz, in Oaxaca, to Tonalá, in the extreme west of Chiapas. At present, no specimens of this species have been sighted in Chiapas..

In Oaxaca, today it is distributed in four small towns, located around the Superior Lagoon and the Inferior Lagoon, on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

- Habitat

The Lepus flavigularis It lives along the salty lagoons of the northern Gulf of Tehuantepec. It has a preference for woody grasslands and meadows, with extensive tree cover and open shrubs. Also, it inhabits coastal dunes, with an abundance of herbs, such as Opuntia decumbens, Sabal mexicana and Opuntia tehuantepecana.

The bushes that are present in these habitats offer the Tehuantepec hare camouflage and cover, aspects of great importance when resting and feeding..

In the dry tropical savannas, there is a large community of scattered plant species, dominated by native Bouteloua and Paspalum grasses, shrubs and trees such Byrsonima crassifolia and Crescentia spp.

- Home ranges

The home ranges of the Lepus flavigularis they overlap regardless of age and sex. Regarding size, the central areas cover between 2.1 and 13.3 ha, averaging 8.5 ha. The region that it occupies annually is between 27.6 and 99.7 ha.

On the other hand, the seasonal range varies between the sexes. Thus, the females have a range of 15 to 111 ha., While for the males it ranges from 24 to 166 ha. Adult Tehuantepec hares share the area they occupy with up to ten conspecifics. Regarding the overlap, it was less among males than among females.

- Description of the vegetation

In an investigation carried out in the regions where the Tehuantepec hare lives, specialists identified different types of habitats.

San Francisco del Mar Viejo

Coastal vegetation predominates in this region. In this there are grasses and several mangroves, which border estuaries and ponds. There is also a thorny deciduous tropical forest and coastal dunes. In relation to the species in the area, there are abundant Acacia spp. and several of the Cactaceae family.

Montecillo Santa Cruz

As for this geographical area, there are four types of habitats. One is made up of grasslands, made up of flat, open and flat areas, which are flooded during winter. Within the plant species, there are herbs, trees of Crescentia alata and bushes. Pastures also abound, such as Trisetum spp. Y Aristida spp.

Another of the ecosystems present is known as nanchal. This is a semi-open area, mainly composed of strata of shrubs, with a higher density than grasslands. The predominant species in this area is the nanche (Byrsonima crassifolia).

The third type of habitat in Montecillo Santa Cruz is the bush, where there are deciduous and thorny types, up to four meters high. Regarding the species, the Casearia spp., Acacia farnesiana, and Aristida sp.

Finally, there is the riparian vegetation, made up of small patches with dense vegetation, which grows on the banks of streams. This area is characterized by having very tall deciduous trees, almost 15 meters high and by the presence of Aristida sp., Celtis iguanaea and Gliricidia sepium.


Currently, there are only four populations of this species, which, in addition to being small, are geographically separated from each other. One is located in Montecillo Santa Cruz, located in the northern part of the Inferior Lagoon, while those that live in San Francisco del Mar Viejo are south of the same lagoon..

The third population lives in Aguachil, southeast of San Francisco del Mar Viejo, and the last group is in Santa María del Mar, southwest of Laguna Superior..

In a recent research work, experts concluded that the Lepus flavigularis it is phylogenetically structured in two different clades. Clade A includes the hares from San Francisco del Mar Viejo, Aguachil and Montecillo Santa Cruz. While clade B is formed by those that live in Santa María del Mar.

Furthermore, historical demographic analysis indicates that these two clades expanded approximately 9000 years ago..

State of conservation

The Lepus flavigularis it has a small and decreasing range, currently reduced to four isolated populations. These are strongly threatened by hunting and habitat fragmentation, which has caused the communities of this species to decline rapidly..

Due to this situation, the IUCN has categorized the Tehuantepec hare as a lagomorph in danger of extinction. Likewise, this species, according to the Official Mexican Standard (SEMARNAT 2010), is part of the group of animals at high risk of extinction.

- Threats

Habitat degradation

The habitat of this species is threatened by the use of land for agricultural and urban activities and for raising livestock. In this sense, the reduction of habitat in the last 24 years is estimated between 8 and 29%.

Likewise, grasslands are degraded due to forest fires, which, to a large extent, are induced by humans. According to statistics, the burning of savannas accounts for around 20% of the death of adult hares.

Also, the ecosystem is compromised by the introduction of exotic grasses, which deteriorate the diversity and structure of the native vegetation..

In this sense, the diet of this mammal is very diverse and does not depend on a single variety of plant. Therefore, the transformation of grasslands where a great diversity of grasses abound into monospecific grasslands, can affect the survival of this lagomorph..

Genetic isolation

The populations of the Lepus flavigularis they are reduced and isolated, which results in low genetic variation. This could lead to inbreeding, where species that are closely related at the genetic level mate..


Poaching accounts for approximately 13% of deaths of adults and 6% of juveniles of this species. In this sense, the Tehuantepec hare is hunted locally to obtain its meat, which is consumed by the inhabitants of the region. It is seldom captured to be sold as a pet.


According to a study carried out in the populations of the Lepus flavigularis, predation is the leading cause of mortality. In this sense, around 94% of the deaths of pups occur due to attacks by coyotes and the gray fox, while in adults the rate drops to 67%.

- Actions

Protectionist organizations raise the need to establish effective protection plans for the different habitats where the Tehuantepec hare is distributed. In this way, the diversity and the natural environment where this species develops is preserved..

In addition, the institutions propose actions that regulate hunting more efficiently. They also suggest the implementation of educational programs that sensitize the population about the serious danger of extinction of this species..


The Lepus flavigularis it is a herbivorous animal, which consumes mainly grasses. According to experts, around 67% of their diet is made up of grasses from the Poaceae family. Thus, during the dry and rainy seasons, this species feeds on Cathestecum brevifolium, Digitaria ciliaris, Muhlenbergia microsperma Y Bouteloua dactyloides.

Despite this food preference, it thrives on a great diversity of plants. Proportionally, 69.2% correspond to the dicotyledonous class and 30.8% to the monocotyledons.

Within these groups are species such as the Cyperus semiochraceus (family Cyperaceae), Bastardiastrum gracile (family Malvaceae), Ipomea wrightii (family Convolvulaceae), Chamaecrista flexuosa Y Mimosa tenuiflora (family Fabaceae).

Digestive process

Plant cell walls are made of cellulose. This substance cannot be digested by enzymes in the digestive system of mammals. However, the Tehuantepec hare, like the rest of the lagomorphs, has organic adaptations that allow it to assimilate this compound.

First, he cuts the plant tissues with the incisors and then grinds them with the molar teeth. The digestive process continues in the stomach and small intestine, where some nutrients are absorbed.

However, it is in the cecum where, thanks to the action of certain bacteria, cellulose is processed. This intestinal fermentation transforms cellulose into sugar, which is assimilated by the body.


The Lepus flavigularis it reaches sexual maturity at six or seven months of life. Therefore, both the male and the female can reproduce in the first year. This species is polygamous, so the male mates with more than one female.

As for the reproductive period, it can cover the months of February to December. However, it has a maximum peak from May to October, which corresponds to the rainy season. This could suggest a relationship between mating and food availability..

Thus, in the winter season, the vegetation cover and productivity in the grasslands increases. This results in an increase in food resources, an important aspect for the fulfillment of reproductive activities..

In this sense, reproduction implies a high energy consumption, which allows courtship, search for a mate, pregnancy and lactation to be carried out. This is why during mating, both the male and the female need to increase the levels of nutrient consumption..

After about 32 days have elapsed after copulation, the young are born. Litter size is one to four young.


The Tehuantepec hare is a solitary animal, although it can form food groups, as a way to protect itself from predators. This species is most active in the twilight and night hours, resting for a long time during the day.

One of his most complex behaviors is courtship. In this, the male tilts his ears back and approaches the female. At that moment he smells her vulva, to detect whether or not she is in heat..

In the event that the female is not capable of reproducing or that she does not wish to join that male, she pushes him with her front legs. She can also chase and bite him, until he gets away from her.

However, if the female accepts it, they sniff each other. Then, the male jumps several times on the female, a behavior that the female repeats on the male.

Subsequently, the male chases the female, who may occasionally turn around and strike him with her forelimbs. Finally, the male grabs her with his front legs and copulates for about 1.5 minutes..


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