Wild march hares photographed boxing in spring sunshine


This incredible sight of two hares boxing in the spring sunshine could become a thing of the past due to declining species numbers.

Photographer David Tippling, 44, watched the hares playing for nearly three days to get the unique series of shots showing them trading punches while dancing on their hind legs.

But conservationists now fear the spectacle could be become ever rarer, as the brown hare population in the UK has plummeted by 75 PER CENT over the last 50 years.

New farming practices and illegal hair coursing have seen numbers dwindle from four million in the 1800s to three million in the 1960s and just 750,000 today.

The government were so worried about the species Biodiversity Action Plans were launched across the UK in the late 90s, but have so far failed to boost numbers.

Boxing between hares spawned the phrase ”mad as a March hare” and is normally caused by a female doe repelling the amorous advances of a male or ”Jack”.

In David’s pictures taken near his home in Holt, Norfolk, the young male boxes the doe in a large wheat field as she tries to beat him away in spectacular fashion.

David said: ”The site was fantastic and although I had to return to the field a few times it was worth the wait to photograph one of the iconic images of the British countryside.

”The male and the doe were really going at each other and their paws were flailing wildly as they danced around the field on a beautiful spring day. It was quite a bout.

”The hares can become invisible while resting and many hours passed when I witnessed little or no activity but my patience paid off when these two put their boxing gloves on.”

Hares are now patchily distributed across the country and increased pressure from coursing and killing by landowners has added to the problem.

Other threats include loss of habitat, loss of habitat diversity due to intensive farming, death of leverets by farm machinery, and pesticides.

Lucy Lush(corr), from the Lancashire Biodiversity Partnership, said the fall in numbers was ”devastating”. and particularly bad in the northwest they were monitoring.

She said: ”At one time the animals were widespread but nationally numbers are falling across the country and the population is in trouble.

”The reasons are many but include new farming methods, and the use of pesticides which harm the hares. They are also hunted relentlessly by foxes.

”The animals are a massive part of our rural tradition and it would be a terrible loss for the UK if they disappeared all together.

”We need to find out everything we can about exactly why the animals are dying out and then do what is needed to save this staple of the British countryside.”

David is author and photographer for more than 40 photography and wildlife books and was named one of the world’s top 50 photographers by Marie Clare magazine in 2008.


  1. Lovely photos, what a joy they are!! We have one LARGE ?female visiting us in the field behind our garden (Norfolk) Stays 5-6 hours resting and feeding, then vanishes!! 4 consecutive days so far, I wonder if she`ll be back tomorrow!!?? JK

  2. Does anyone know if there is a charity in existence for the protection of hares? If so, I would be able to do a lot for it in the near future.


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