Tuscany Wildlife - The Hare
There is more to see in Tuscany than the beautiful towns and historic buildings. The countryside is spectacularly beautiful and contains a wealth of wildlife, some of which tourists may only have seen before in zoos or television programmes.
One animal you may well spot when visiting Tuscany is the hare. These are much larger than rabbits, their more numerous cousins, and one easy way to tell them apart is their bigger, black-tipped ears. The hare's fur is generally a shade between sand and brown, with white belly-fur, though this can vary; hares to the far north of the country, for instance, turn white in winter in order to blend in with the snow.
This ability to camouflage itself is important as the hare spends a large part of each day lying still amongst the ground cover, hidden from predators. Its preferred territory is cultivated countryside or level ground within forests, where its incredible turn of speed are put to good use when fleeing danger. Hares have longer legs than rabbits and more powerful forelegs. This enables them to make sudden changes of direction when running to throw off pursuit. This is known as telemarking and is a trait that also helps identify hares from rabbits.
Also unlike rabbits, hares do not live beneath ground but in scrapes, small areas of hollowed out ground where they can lie still and camouflaged. Spotting scrapes around a countryside villa in Tuscany is a good sign hares are close by, and the best time to look for them is during the evening and as night falls.
Hares are most active during the hours of darkness, when they feed on plant material and mate. Baby hares are called leverets and can be born throughout the year. When they are born, they are already quite self-sufficient, having eyes and ears already open, unlike many mammals. They are fully grown and independent by the time they reach one year old.
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Our accommodation, which cost less than £800 for the week, is in a converted stone farmhouse next to a 12th Century Franciscan chapel. There is a pergola shaded by vines round the back here we quickly settle into a rhythm of eating long pasta suppers while the shadows lengthen.
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