March hares: why do they box and best places to see them in the UK

Witness a fascinating wildlife spectacle of boxing hares this spring with our guide to mad March hares, which explains why they box and the best places to see them in the British countryside.

European Brown Hare boxing in spring, Norfolk

This spring see one of Britain’s greatest wildlife spectacles – boxing March hares. Our guide to explains why and when hares box and the best places to see in the UK.

What species of hare are found in the UK?

There are three types of hare in the UK: the brown hare, the mountain hare and the Irish hare. The brown hare is the most common and you’re most likely to see these on arable farmland and large, flat expanses of grassland. The open plains of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire are a stronghold for brown hares, as are the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire.

Hare at sundown ©Getty

Brown hares have golden brown fur and a white belly, and they have long ears with black tips. At full pelt, they can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.

Track them by looking out for tufts of fur caught in brambles and barbed wire, or their droppings on the ground, which resemble those of a rabbit, but are larger, with a slightly tapered end. The best time to spot hares is either first thing in the morning or early evening.

Boxing mountain hares
Boxing mountain seen in the Cairngorms national park in Scotland/Credit: Getty

White hares are most commonly seen in Northern England and Scotland.


Why do hares box?

Hares are usually solitary creatures but come March/April time you can see females fighting off the mating urges of the males, standing on their hind legs and literally ‘boxing’ with their front paws.

European Brown Hares (Lepus europaeus) female boxing / fighting with male in field during the breeding season
European Brown Hares (Lepus europaeus) female boxing fighting with male in field during the breeding season/Credit: Getty

Where to see hares in the UK

Lyme Park, Cheshire

Lyme Park, Cheshire
Lyme Park, Cheshire/Credit: Getty

This National Trust property is home to a thriving population of brown hares. On the edge of the Peak District, nestling within sweeping moorland, Lyme Park is a magnificent estate, and was used as the location for Mr Darcy’s glorious Pemberley home in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.

RSPB Havergate Island, Suffolk

Hare sitting in hind legs Havergate
One of the hares on Havergate Island, blending in beautifully with his surroundings/Credit: Getty
This small island in the River Ore is usually famous for its breeding avocets and terns, which can usually be seen during spring and summer. The island also has a large population of brown hares – you’re in with a good chance of spotting one at close range. Access is by boat only – booking is essential, boats leave Orford Quay.

Anglesey, North Wales

South Stack, Anglesey
South Stack, Anglesey ©Alamy

Another good location for seeing brown hares – in fact the North Wales Wildlife Trust are inviting people to count the number of hare sightings on the island, as part of their North Wales Brown Hare Project.

RSPB Dove Stone, Derbyshire

ove Stone reservoir, Greenfield, Peak District, England.
Popular scenic area in the far north of the Peak District national park. Aldermans hill opposite./Credit: Getty

The Peak District is the only place in the whole of England where mountain hares are found. Over winter their fur is a dazzling white to blend in with the snow, and around this time of year, they turn their usual brown again. Dove Stone has a stunning landscape of towering hills, sheer rock faces and swathes of open moorland, a perfect backdrop for spotting boxing mountain hares.

Rathlin Island, Co Antrim

Rathlin Island Northern Ireland
View from Fairhead with Rathlin Island in the background, Northern Ireland/Credit: Getty

This beautiful island lying off the coast of Country Antrim is teeming with wildlife: dolphins, porpoises, puffins and razorbills all thrive here. It is also a great place to spot the Irish hare, which has shorter ears and its tail is all white, not just the under-side as with the brown hare.