Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jack Rabbits: Faster Than the Speed of Light

Jack Rabbit at rest. Photo by government employee/public domain.

When my husband and I moved our chocolate lab pups, Buddy and Holly, to 35 acres on the border of Colorado and Wyoming we had no idea the land came with non-stop doggy entertainment. There were more Jack Rabbits on that land than I ever imagined existed, but the fun was in watching the silly antics of the puppies as they tried to chase these masters of speed.

Buddy and Holly are a bit older now, but they still enjoy sitting on the porch, watching the animals that come out at dusk, including the bunnies! 

However, as they now share their home with a domestic rabbit, Layla Lou (that's her above, she gets jealous if I don't post her photo on a regular basis) they no longer chase bunnies through the fields. We have "de-bunnied" them. 

 We rescued the dogs from outside of a grocery store and were told they are a mix of chocolate and black lab. They look like chocolates, but each weighs around 100 pounds and they are fast! They are intelligent, and apparently used as hunting dogs, (though I would never hunt an animal.) 

Yucca plant. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Apparently this behavior is instinctive because the dogs had a hunting game they loved to play in our hills. Holly would check beneath the yucca plants for a bunny, then she'd point. She held very still, but lifted one paw and held her nose forward, staring. As soon as Buddy noticed she was still he would run to her side. That's when the rabbit would dart out from beneath the yucca plant. 

Yucca flowers at sunset. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Once the rabbit was on the move, Buddy would howl like a hound and start chasing the rabbit. If it was a cottontail it was usually close to its hole and the chase ended quickly. However, if it was a Jack Rabbit, that's when the real fun would begin! My husband and I would sit on our chairs on the front porch and watch them for hours--Jack Rabbit Television! 

Holly giving Buddy a bath. (He is SO spoiled! She tracks his food, chases his food, runs it into exhaustion and delivers it at his feet and he still eats kibbles then lies down for an ear-cleaning!) 

First, Buddy would start the chase, then Holly, realizing her brother was much too slow, would join in. Holly often came right up on their tail, but Buddy always reached a point where he grew tired of the chase, so he watched Holly chase the rabbit down the road, knowing she would turn it around back toward our house. 

Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit. Photo in public domain, taken by US Government employee.

When Holly and the rabbit came close, Buddy would join in the chase for a few minutes, then sit down and wait for Holly and the rabbit to reach the first hill where she would guide the rabbit back toward the house. When she came close again, Buddy once again joined in the fun until it became just too exhausting for his lazy nature.  The Jack Rabbit would trot in a zig zag pattern, throwing a hop or two in between. We assumed these maneuvers were intentional, to allow the dogs to think they were actually making progress. When the dogs came too close, the Jack Rabbits kicked into hyper-drive and darted across the fields and into the tall grass.

I spotted this beauty at the Veteran's Park in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. I am not skilled with identifying rabbits, but the long ears trimmed with black have left me with the thought that this might be a Black-Tailed Jack Rabbit (Lepus californicus), or as we call them here in New Mexico, a Black Jack, or American Desert Hare, the only Jack Rabbit that inhabits all four Southwestern deserts. Of course, there are many rabbit species in New Mexico so it's difficult to say.

Black Jack Rabbit in the desert outside Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Above and below are photographs of an adult Black Jack. They are smaller than other Jack Rabbits, but super-fast, so they are difficult to photograph. However, they often make their appearance at dusk, darting across the road. I sometimes think they are sitting in the sagebrush with their teenage siblings playing chicken. "Okay, next time a truck comes by, wait as long as you can then run across the street!" You can tell this is a Black Jack by the black on the tail. 

Black Jack Rabbit in the desert outside Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

In the A to Z Bloggers Challenge J is for Jack Rabbit! 


Maria Dunn said...
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Maria Dunn said...

What a beautifully fun word picture you have painted, Darla Sue. I can feel myself sitting with you on your porch watching the dogs and rabbits frolicking in the field. Thank you for letting us envision the countryside outside of your home through your eyes. Enjoy, Maria from Delight Directed Living

Darla Sue Dollman said...

We just sold our house and we're moving back to Colorado soon. Our dogs are older now--we decided to explore the Southwest for a few years, but now our five children are all getting married and it makes sense to go home to the grandchildren--and I have a feeling the dogs will now be joining us on the porch watching the rabbits run by...