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The gloves are off at RSPB reserves

Last modified: 10 March 2012

Boxing hares at Saltholme

Darren Clark, Boxing hares at RSPB Saltholme

Image: Darren Clark

With spring approaching, the brown hares of the UK are starting to ‘box’, and the we're encouraging people to head to our nature reserves to see the opening bouts of these amazing seasonal matches.

Unlike the male parties of the well-publicised recent heavyweight fracas, the dramatic sight of hares ‘boxing’ is actually the females fighting off the unwanted attention of overly amorous males.

The males gather together vying for the female’s attention and if not impressed, she uses fisticuffs to fend them off.

Ideal habitat

Having spent the winter months snuggling together for body warmth on exposed grasslands, the normally shy animals are out now, ‘boxing’ in broad daylight.

Hares don’t store enough fat in their bodies to survive over winter, and need a constant food supply throughout the year. Preferring wild grasses and herbs to eat, many RSPB nature reserves provide ideal habitat for these enigmatic animals with open landscapes and mixes of wild grassland.

Pairs of hares have been sparring since the beginning of February and over the coming weeks the groups will get bigger – lucky viewers may see as many as eight or nine jostling together. 

RSPB Saltholme visitor and photographer Darren Clark said: “It’s amazing to see this treat of nature so close-up. Your patience can be tested as they’re not always easy to see, but when you finally see them going for it, it’s breath-taking.”

Where can I see them?

As the spectacle gathers pace, there are many places UK-wide where you can get a ringside seat, including:

  • Saltholme, near Stockton, is going all out to help visitors see the hares in action. Every weekend during March, volunteers will be on hand at two specially-made boxing-ring themed viewpoints – nicknamed the red corner and the blue corner.
  • Buckenham Marshes in Norfolk is great for seeing hares, both on the reserve and in the arable fields around the car park.
  • Havergate Island in Suffolk is offering boat trips to the island to hopefully see the spectacle close up. Contact RSPB Minsmere to book on 01728 648281.
  • Otmoor is a great place to wander this spring in the hope of glimpsing the hares lolloping in the open Oxfordshire countryside.

As well as providing important habitat for the vulnerable brown hare, Otmoor’s exposed landscape has inspired passion from local people over the years, from farmers to world-renowned authors, including John Buckham and Lewis Carroll.

Once a local resident to Otmoor, it is thought that the chequer-board field patterns of its landscape inspired Lewis Carroll’s second Alice in Wonderland novel, Through the Looking Glass – it is possible his March Hare was also inspired by Otmoor’s mad March hares!

For more information on where to see boxing hares this March, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/reserves

Go on, get out there, enjoy yourself!

How you can help

RSPB reserves are great places for a day out