Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals
Search the Archive

  Lagomorpha · Leporidae · Lepus californicus
   Smithsonian Institution
   Copyright Notice
   Privacy Notice
Lepus californicus

Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae

Image of Lepus californicus
Click to enlarge. (92 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

Black-tailed Jackrabbits are tremendous leapers, able to jump more than 6 m horizontally. They live in some of the hottest and driest regions of the continent, can survive on poor-quality foods, and get most or all of the water they need from their food. Where they can, they eat green vegetation, but they can survive in parts of the Southwest where creosote-bush forms a large part of their diet. They cope with extreme heat by lowering their metabolism and resting in the shade during the day, which conserves water. They get rid of extra salt through their urine, and blood flows close to the skin in their enormous ears, a cooling mechanism. Although mostly nocturnal and solitary, large groups sometimes form near a good food supply. With their typically high reproductive output, Black-tails can be agricultural pests, and there were periods in the 1800s and 1900s when aggressive rabbit drives herded and destroyed 5,000-6,000 animal in a single day. In spite of this, they are quite common and widespread.

Also known as:
California Jackrabbit

Range: 465-630 mm

Range: 1,300-3,300 g


Gray, J.E., 1837.  Description of some new or little known Mammalia, principally in the British Museum Collection, p. 586.  The Magazine of Natural History, and Journal of Zoology, Botany, Mineralogy, Geology, and Meteorology, New Series, 1:577-587.


Mammal Species of the World

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account

Distribution of Lepus californicus

Image of Lepus californicus
Click to enlarge. (97kb)