Is the Easter Bunny a rabbit or a hare?

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Like has happened for centuries are again on the minds of many adults who ponder the age old question: “Is the Easter Bunny a rabbit or a hare?” Spring has arrived and Easter is right around the corner, which also means the Easter Bunny is on the minds of many children.

As many of our readers know, hares and rabbits are cousins. The good news for all candy-lovers is that, by nature, both species are well equipped to handle the tasks that come with being the Easter Bunny.

However, the question still remains: “Is the Easter Bunny a rabbit or a hare?”

Historically the European Hare, or brown hare, holds the credentials as being the original Easter Bunny, according to German legend dating back to the 1500s. The rituals of children preparing nests and eager anticipating of the arrival of Oster Haas (Easter hare), delivering brightly colored eggs on Easter Morning has taken place in German-speaking countries for century after century.

In the United States, the cottontail rabbit has been adopted as the official deliverer of Easter goodies. The popular name “Peter Cottontail” appears in multiple Easter holiday songs and the fluffy white tail appears in every imaginable commercial rendition pertaining to Easter.

So just how are the Easter hare (brown hare) and the Easter Rabbit (cottontail rabbit) equipped for the overwhelming tasks associated with their occupations? Looking at the unique features of these two family members, we must make comparisons.

It takes a lot of endurance and stamina for a small mammal to accomplish the major task of delivering hundreds of thousands of eggs to children in a single night. While both species are primarily nocturnal animals they must stay alert and at work the entire Saturday night before Easter. Most of their productivity is at dusk and dawn where they have heightened energy and activity.

Both species have large eyes for seeing at night and large ears to allow them to detect territorial intrusions. The long hind legs of the hare allow it to run up to fifty miles per hour and outwit and outrun predators. Cottontails move at a swift but slower pace than do hares and often rely upon burrows and surface depressions to conceal themselves.

So far, both the hare and rabbit have managed to elude humans on every Easter Sunday to date—an incredible feat indeed.

Although it would completely debunk the theory that there is just one Easter rabbit, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to assume that egg-delivery is a task shared by a complex, vast network of hundreds, if not thousands of rabbits.There certainly are enough of them to cover all the territory.

It’s no secret that rabbits and hares are an exceptionally fertile and active.

Even newborn hares could help with the Easter responsibilities. Just minutes after their birth they are fully furred and able to run around with relative ease. On the other hand new born rabbits are not suited for any activity. They are born blind and naked and require a lot of coddling by their mother before venturing out in to the world.

We have to wonder what glamor there is in being the Easter Bunny. While children drool over jelly beans, chocolate eggs and rabbits and other sweets that arrive on Easter Sunday, hares and rabbits indulge in their favorite foods – grass and clover. Perhaps their payoff is seeing the children’s faces when they see what has been left for them.

More realistically I believe it is the honor in upholding the tradition for so many years.