Whitetailed Jackrabbit

Scientific name: Lepus townsendii
Classification: Small game mammal
Size: Body 18-25" long. 4 - 8 pounds.
Life span: 1- 5 years


A gray-white jackrabbit with long ears and legs and a white tail. The whitetailed jackrabbit is part of the hare family, having a leaner, lankier look than the cottontail rabbit. The jackrabbit also has the characteristic oversized legs and ears. Both sexes look alike with their dark buff colored fur mottled with black coloration. A black stripe runs from the rump to the top of the tail, and the underside of the tail is white. The only notable difference between the two sexes is that the female is larger. White-tailed jackrabbits differ from black-tailed ones because of the white coloration on the tail.



Grasslands and farmlands. The white-tailed jackrabbit prefers mountainous terrain, sagebrush country and native short grass prairie. Barren, grazed, or cultivated lands; grasslands.



The whitetailed jackrabbit can be found in the southwestern united states into mexico; east to missouri; north into washington, idaho, colorado and nebraska; and west to california and baja california. The range in california is restricted to the east side of the sierra nevada and cascade ranges from tulare county north to the oregon border.


Natural history:

The whitetailed jackrabbit hides during the day, coming out at night to feed. Traveling in 12- to 20-foot leaps, this jackrabbit can maintain a speed of 35 miles per hour, and reach 45 mph for short periods. When cornered, it will swim, dog-paddling with all four feet. Males, called bucks, fight furiously during the mating season, mostly by kicking out with their hindfeet and biting when they can.


Food habits:

The whitetailed jackrabbit is a strict herbivore. In the summer they eat mostly green plants and flowers that are high in water content, so they do not require much water. They will also eat sagebrush and cacti.



This species breeds from late february to mid-july. Females bear 2-4 litters of 1-11 young each year. Young are born in burrows, cavities or depressions in the vegetation. A single litter of up to 11 young, known as leverets, is born after a six-week gestation period. The rabbit is capable of having several litters during the same season. The leverets are born fully furred with their eyes open. Females only nurse the offspring for two to three days and are not seen with their young after that time. The females do not make a formal nest; instead, they create a shallow depression in the ground, called a “form.” The female is rarely seen in the form with the young; she will usually leave them in the form alone while she sits nearby watching for predators.

Little is known about the social behaviors of the jackrabbit. What has been discovered is that courtship involves prolonged chases of the female by the male. Sexually active males can be seen with their nose to the ground in search of a female. In the event the male comes across another male, fights do ensue, and some can be fierce. Rearing up on their hind legs, jackrabbits strike out at each other with their forefeet. During these fights males may bite each other, especially on the ears. If a female is encountered, she will sometimes lower her ears and turn to face her intruder. If the male continues his advancement, the female may jump out and strike him or jump straight into the air. While the female is in the air, the male will charge underneath her causing the female to turn and face him. This performance will generally lead to the courtship chase.



The whitetailed jackrabbit is nevada protected and designated as a small game animal. It can be hunted only during designated hunting seasons.


Reason for status:

Historic tradition as a game animal.


Management & conservation:

Nevada department of wildlife manages white-tailed jackrabbits as an upland game mammal, with a designated hunting season. They have a variety of predators but the more serious problems are probably disease, parasites and man's activity of breaking up native grasslands for agriculture.


Fun facts:

  • Jackrabbits, while in the same order of mammals as rabbits, the lagomorphs, are not true rabbits, but are true hares.
  • Bugs bunny is a true jackrabbit!
  • White-tailed jackrabbits turn white in response to decreasing daylight hours in late fall.