Britains native mountain hare (quick biology lesson)

I have Karen Miller to thank for this image of a mountain hare. She was out on the mountain in the snow with her camera, and I was in the relative (mostly not that relative) warmth of my studio with paper and pastels. Karen has inspired me. She has captured some wonderful and characterful shots of mountain hares and other wildlife and I will be attempting to do some of them justice, with her gracious permission.
I have been moved to learn more about these secretive yet ubiquitously depicted creatures. Most people who come to my studio mistake them for “bunnies”. I guess you could be forgiven if you have never seen a hare, but they are a very different beastie indeed. Their physiology for a start; much larger and more powerful as you would expect, but a thing like their nasal cavity has evolved quite differently to that of a rabbit in order to accommodate the volume of air needed to fuel their flight and gymnastics; the way their heart is anchored extra securely to their skeleton in order not to be dislodged in sharp turns and tumbles while racing from predators (or suitors). The leverets are borne fully formed with eyes open. They live entirely above ground and do not make a burrow. They are among a very small group of animals that have the ability to conceive while in the last stage of pregnancy, thought to be an adaptation to shorten the time between litters.
We live in an age where raising grouse to shoot commercially takes precedence over mountain hares and many are killed so that grouse hunting can remain lucrative. Not in some far off place, but in Scotland. Maybe the more we learn about an animal, an ecosystem, our planet, the safer it becomes because hopefully with knowledge comes respect. Thats how it works for me anyway.

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