Friday, October 29, 2010

Jackrabbits and cottontails

Here in the high desert near Joshua Tree, California, we have both cottontail rabbits and black-tailed jackrabbits.  I have done paintings of both species, and have noticed that many people don't know the difference between the two.  If you have spent hours and hours watching them, like Mr. Pono the dog and I have, you can see one of the main differences between them is size.  The jackrabbit (lepus californicus) is a much bigger creature than the desert cottontail (sylvilagus audubonii.)  The black-tailed jack rabbit is in fact a hare, rather than a rabbit.  Both species have large ears, to alert them to the sound of predators and to help cool them in the hot summer months.  However, the jack rabbit's ears are substantially more impressive, in my humble opinion.
The desert cottontail.
Black-Tailed jackrabbit, seen from the side.  Note the longer tail.

The black-tailed jack rabbits do not dig a burrow underground to bear their young.  Rather, the female will find a safe place, often under a shrub or other cover, and give birth to her young, called leverets.  The leverets are born with their eyes open and fully furred.  They are mobile within minutes of birth.  The female jack will then move each leveret to a different location, so that if  a predator discovers the young, it will not get the entire litter.  This is in contrast to the desert cottontail.  The cottontail does dig a nest, lines it with fur from her belly, and gives birth to hairless, blind babies.  (Some of you may recall an earlier post, when Pono dug up a cottontail nest in our front yard.  You can read about that here and here.)
Here they are, side by side.  The cottontail is on the left, jack on the right.

Like their name, the cottontail has a round, white tail that acts as a warning.  When chased by a predator, the  tail of the cottontail goes straight up, alerting other cottontails nearby.  Although the desert cottontail does not live in colonies like its European counterpart, it does tolerate other cottontails nearby more than the jackrabbit will.  The black-tailed jackrabbit has a longer tail that is buff colored underneath and has black stripes on either side.  The black-tailed jack also has black-tipped ears. 

Although I love both the cottontail and the jackrabbit, very much, I must admit a certain partiality to the jackrabbit.  Those ears really GET me, every time I see them.  They are quite a bit more skittish than the cottontails, and they are big enough that every now and then I think I am seeing a coyote, when I glimpse them out of the corner of my eye.  SO COOL.  Or maybe my fondness comes from the fact that I grew up seeing cottontail rabbits, whereas the jackrabbit is a creature that I hadn't seen until moving here, to Joshua Tree.  I guess the jackrabbit just equals the desert, for me.

I leave you with a recent painting of the black-tailed jackrabbit, called Juicy Jack.  This oil painting measures 20 x 16 inches.   This painting is still available.  If you are interested, please email me.
"Juicy Jack."  Oil on canvas, 20x 16 inches.  ©k.swenson2010
I have passed 30,000 visitors to my blog!!!  I actually think I have had more visitors than that, but I didn't start counting until after I had already been blogging for a while.  I am pretty excited about it, and I am planning a giveaway next week.  Be sure to stay tuned for it!  Have a great weekend, everyone!


ArtPropelled said...

I'm partial to those looooong ears too. Beautiful painting Karine! Congrats on your 30,000th visitor.

Cynthia Schelzig said...

First of all,,, love your rendering of "Juicy Jack"...we have rabbits here in Germany that look similar to the Jack Rabbits...some get quite big and have the big ears like your fotos.
It was interesting reading about the cottontail and jack.

icaresitter said...

I have lived in Santa fe New Mexico for the past 11 years. I was only familiar with cottontails from back East. I have been intrigued by jackrabbits from the first glance. I have seen adults in front of my home, but I'm not sure what young jacks look like. When I show people my photos of what I think are young jacks, they always tell me that I'm looking at cottontails. Where can I see pictures of young jacks and cottontails side by side? I am a watercolor artist and a Pet Sitter.