Pedetidae – Springhares

Q: What has a rabbit's face bounces like a kangaroo but is a rodent? A: A Springhare!

Found primarily in the dry scrub and grasslands of Eastern and Southern Africa, springhares have carved out a niche within their arid habitats, where they play a vital role in ecosystem dynamics.

Each springhare takes great care in constructing its burrow, meticulously digging and shaping its subterranean refuge before sealing the entrance with sand—a strategy aimed at ensuring its safety and security while asleep inside. This burrow serves as a sanctuary for the springhare, providing protection from predators and extreme weather conditions, allowing them to rest and recuperate before embarking on their nocturnal foraging excursions.

As the sun sets and darkness descends upon the savannas, springhares emerge from their burrows, their keen senses attuned to the sounds and scents of the night. With agile movements, they scamper across the grasslands in search of sustenance, their diet consisting primarily of grass, bulbs, and roots. Despite their small size, springhares are voracious herbivores, consuming large quantities of vegetation to meet their nutritional needs.

One of the most striking features of the springhare is its unique feeding behavior. Unlike many other rodents, springhares sit upright while eating, holding their food in their front paws—a posture that allows them to efficiently consume their meal while remaining vigilant for potential threats. Additionally, their tails, which are longer than their bodies, serve as a support mechanism, providing stability and balance while seated.

However, the springhare’s most remarkable adaptation lies in its extraordinary ability to evade predators. At the first sign of danger, these rodents rely on their powerful hind legs to execute rapid, kangaroo-like leaps, propelling them several meters in a single bound. This impressive mode of locomotion not only enables springhares to escape potential threats but also inspires their common name, reflecting their remarkable agility and athleticism.

Despite their nocturnal lifestyle, springhares are not solitary creatures. They often inhabit overlapping home ranges, forming loose social networks within their populations. These social bonds facilitate communication, cooperation, and mutual defense against common predators, enhancing the survival and reproductive success of individuals within the group.