Introducing Kit

I should probably introduce the animals properly. Kit’s my oldest, so I’ll start with him.

Kit is a European Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus). Hares were introduced into Australia and are therefore considered a feral species and a minor pest. Unlike rabbits, hares are generally solitary, do not dig burrows, and are born fully furred with their eyes open. When I found Kit he weighed 170 grams and fit comfortably in one hand. He was under attack from ants and seemed to be in some distress. Having no quarrel with hares (rabbits are a different matter), I picked all the ants off him and set him back down again. But in my world, when you interfere with an animal’s life you take responsibility for it. The ants were still there, the baby hare was too young to move, and if I moved him, would his mother find him again? While I was trying to decide what to do he started jumping against my leg. I bent down to brush him off and he somehow ended up in my arms, where he settled down instantly. The universe had spoken as far as I was concerned.

That was about 6 1/2 years ago. I raised him and because I felt it was irresponsible to release a feral animal, and because I questioned his ability to look after himself, I kept him. Kit is very, very flighty. Supposedly the fellow who keeps hares for research in Adelaide keeps them in round cages because otherwise they break legs and necks in the corners. I can believe it, although Kit has never been that panicked. Either he’s lucky or I am! I have seen him jump straight up in the air easily as high as my head, which is 170cm. I reckon he could do 2m without much trouble.

Everything Kit does is graceful. He is a beautiful animal. I have never seen him close his eyes. Ever. He will half-lid them when he’s very relaxed. He likes to have his head rubbed. When he is feeling particularly affectionate, which is maybe twice a year, he will gently ‘kiss’ my hand, lipping it with his furry hare lips. He doesn’t like strangers and takes about 6 months to become comfortable with someone if he ever does. If he is frightened he runs fast. Because he is confined, this can have disastrous results. He sometimes cuts himself running into things. Everything I do around him is first and foremost governed by my desire to keep him safe, and that means as calm as possible.

I have been training Kit to target in the hopes of one day getting him to voluntarily enter a crate. I get worried that if we ever have an emergency I won’t be able to catch him fast enough. But more important than targeting is being comfortable with me around him. He won’t go into a crate voluntarily if he’s afraid. So every day I go out and spend time with him giving him bits of strawberry for letting me near him. This is harder than it sounds, because he won’t eat even strawberry unless he is very comfortable. So I spend a lot of time waiting around for him to become comfortable.

Kit turns away

Kit turns awayThis is what he looks like when he doesn’t want to talk to me. Despite the fact he is facing a wall, he can and will spin around and run away if I go any closer.

When he’s ready to interact, his eyes soften a bit and he looks a bit more relaxed and will come closer.

And this is interested Kit. When he wants to interact his ears come right forward and he’ll look almost directly at me. I honestly thought he had a blind spot right in front of his nose, but maybe if I’m far enough away he can still see me. He is so pretty.

So that’s Kit. I am unashamedly wild about him. It’s hard to love an animal that doesn’t really like people, but then again, it’s easy to love an animal that doesn’t like people but will go out of his way to come to you for a head rub or give you harekisses every once in a blue moon.