The Springhare derived its name directly from the Dutch/Afrikaans name Springhaas which describes its mobility, almost kangaroo like.
It has proportionately large hind legs which it uses to propel itself forwards using a long tail to steady its balance. Their coats are a rusty colour throughout, the exception being the end of the tail, which is black. They will most times be found resting on their hind legs with their forelegs suspended underneath the head. The springhare has large well-developed hind legs which enables it to jump large distances when in flight. The long tail used for assisting with balance, the forelegs are equipped with sharp claws used for the digging for roots and other food sources, as well as utilised for the digging of burrows. The Springhare possesses a small flap of skin below the ear which closes off the inner ear while digging and offers protection from sand and soil.
Distribution: From Southern Democratic Republic of Congo (extreme Northern range) through to the Eastern Cape in South Africa, this incorporates all the countries in between, namely, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana to name a few.
Status: Although listed as ‘least concern’ there is very little data available regarding population numbers to substantiate the fact. They are considered a vital source of food and protein for many tribes of South Africa and Botswana in particular and are actively hunted. This includes the famous San tribes on the fringes of the Kalahari. Habitat
Habitat: A preference for soft sandy soils in which digging is easier for the construction of burrows to house young and security.
- It is the only mammal to have a septum in the lower trachea. This is otherwise only found in birds.
- The springhare falls prey to a wide range of predators, including Jackal, Lion, snakes, mongoose, owls and eagles.
- Springhares are often referred to as “mini-kangaroos” as the distance obtained in a single jump can often surpass 3m.
- The female springhare has a gestation period of approximately 78-82 days. One young is born. They are non-seasonal breeders and one female will give birth on average to three individual young per year.
- The young springhare is fully independent from about 7 weeks of age. Sexual maturity is reached at 1 year.
- A pair of Springhares will have a number of burrows with multiple entrance. When exiting the burrow, they will often take one large leap to the outside. This is thought to evade any predators that may be lying in wait.
- Springhares are mostly herbivorous but will feed on insects as well.
- During times of drought they have been known to forage up to 20km from the burrows
- Water needs are obtained through dew, rain and moisture content obtained from plant material, they do not physically drink.
- They possess an advanced sense of sight, hearing and smell. Their large feet assist in detecting vibration.
- Life span in captivity is between 8 and 14 years, life span in the wild is unknown.
Facts researched on the Internet. Words by Chris Mayes.