Pedetes capensisSouth African spring hare(Also: spring hare)

Geographic Range

Pedetes capensis, also known as the Springhare, is found in the south of Zaire and Kenya as well as South Africa. Some springhares are also located in East Africa.


Springhares live in areas with sandy, dry soil. They also can be found in areas of cattle grazing and cultivation of crops such as wheat, oats, and barley. They dig underground tunnels and live in them.

Physical Description

The body length of Pedetes capensis is 35-45 cm, and the tail measures 37-48 cm. Pedetes have a shoulder height of 30 cm when they sit on their hind legs. They also have long ears that are 7-9 cm long. The body color on the dorsal side can be reddish brown, sandy, tawny brown, or cinnamon buff with occasional white or black hairs. The ventral side is white, and a line of similar color extends up the front of the thighs and inside the legs. The tail is very hairy and has a thick black or dark brown brush at the tip end. Overall, their pelage is thin, soft and long with no underfur found.

The springhare resembles a kangaroo with short forelegs and long powerful hind legs. They have four toes on their hind feet with claws that look like small hoofs; these are wider than those found on the forefeet. They have a thick muscular neck supporting their short head. They also have large eyes, and their ears have a tragus that prevents sand from entering when they are digging.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    3 to 4 kg
    6.61 to 8.81 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    4.427 W


The springhare can give birth all during the year. It has a gestation period of 78-82 days and bears one young. The adult female has on average 3.6 liters per year, and there is an average of 101 days between each liter. The average weight of the male and female newborns are 300g and 278g respectively. At birth, the springhare has hair covering its entire body, Its eyes usually open in 3 days. At seven weeks of age, the young springhare leaves its mother and weighs about 1.5 kg. It reaches sexual maturity when the body weight is 2.5 kg. There is no evidence of sexual dimorphism in these animals.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    80 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    1034 days



Springhares are mostly nocturnal but are occasionally active in the day. During the daytime, they live in tunnels that they dig. They plug the entrance of the hole with soil from the inside of the tunnel. It is easier for them to dig during the rainy season when the soil is wet. Sometimes they leap out of their burrows when they come out at night. The springhare jumps like a kangaroo on its hind legs, retreating to its burrow when frightened.

It has been found that a pair of springhares may occupy many different burrows on different days. They tend to make three burrows together in a circular shape. These burrows are mostly found near the largest tree or bush within their home range. The springhare's home range is within 25-250 meters of its burrow. It may expand its area during a drought.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The springhare likes to eat barley, oats, and wheat. They are mainly herbivorous but they have been found to eat some insects (beetles and grasshoppers) as well.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The springhare is hunted in South Africa because it is considered an important source of food. They are often kept in captivity in zoological gardens. Springhares are solitary animals in the wild but they coexist together in captivity well.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

In areas of cultivation where crops of groundnuts, barely, wheat, and oats are grown, springhares may cause some damage to these crops.

Conservation Status

The springhare is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN due to an approximately 20% decrease in the population over the last ten years. This has been caused by intense hunting and the loss of habitat.

Other Comments

Pedetes capensis is the only living genus and species of the family Pedetidae.


Adria Jackson (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Augustine, D., A. Manzon, C. Klopp, J. Elter. 1995. Habitat selection and group foraging of the springhare, Pedetes capensis larvalis Hollister, in East Africa. African Journal of Ecology, volume 33(4): 347-357.

Grzimek, D., D. Badrian, D. Herre, R. Hess, M. Jones. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals (vol.3). New York, St. Louis, San Francisco: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Walker, E., R. Nowak. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.