So i am one and another, in summer and in winter…

I was looking through the National Geographic website for a glimmer of information on an interesting animal to write about for this assignment, when an adorable, classic picture of a white rabbit caught my eye:

Snowshoe Hare: Lepus Americanus. Photograph taken by Michael S. Quinton for the National Geographic Society

Snowshoe Hare: Lepus Americanus. Photograph taken by Michael S. Quinton for the National Geographic Society

Definitely a far cry from the image that popped in my mind of the White Rabbit in Tim Burton’s recent movie! :


Rabbits have been such a well-liked creature to be embedded in stories within entertainment and popular culture (think Peter Rabbit, Roger Rabbit, Bugs Bunny...)

By the way, ‘rabbit’ would be the widely misused term many might have in labelling the animal you see above. These white mammals are actually ‘hares’ (yes there are differences!) – one might be compelled to use them interchangeably, but technically both do differ in terms of size, appearance of offspring, ear length etc…

So the furry little creature you see in the first picture is known as the Snowshoe Hare (scientific name: Lepus Americanus), because of the size and shape of its hind feet which helps them stay atop thick patches of snow (this species being found particularly in many parts of the North American continent – USA and Canada – along elevated lands and even shores of the Arctic Ocean, though they can be seen down south such as around New Mexico)

They are also known as the Varying Hare – why? One of the reasons is due to its ability to change its fur colour according to the season! Towards fall and in winter the Snowshoe Hare has a white coat of fur, whereas towards summer it gradually changes to brown as that of this hare below:

Snowshoe Hare / Lièvre d'Amérique. Uploaded to by Eric Bégin

Snowshoe Hare / Lièvre d'Amérique. Uploaded to by Eric Bégin

Though carried out a long while back, a study done by Grange (1932) (my second source for this blog post) emphasises this adaptive behaviour of the snowshoe hare ” in avoiding intruders” (coupled with their sensitive ears and quick active legs in escaping predation) (Grange 1932, 101).  The seasonal molts as in the shedding of white fur could be triggered by changes in amount of daylight or temperature that induces a hormonal reaction and cause changes in coat. This helps the Snowshoe hare camouflage within its environment from the many predators it has (lynx, coyotes, owls, hawks…). A couple of interesting tidbits, as according to Grange:

– the changes in fur are not correlated directly to immediate climatic conditions, but significantly to average climatic conditions (i.e. there are cases whereby even in absence of snow, the fur changes from brown to white)

– colour change is observed to be coming from growth of hair of new colour, with growth of new fur for winter being “longer, heavier and thicker” (Grange 1932, 115); this difference in fur strand structure counters the notion of a direct change of the colour of the hair itself (instead of replacement) – there is observance that though some hairs are say, uniformly white, most of the fur strands are banded in diffused colours from root to tip.

Practical, and fashionable at the same time,  no?


British Columbia (2003) Wildlife and Nature – Snowshoe Hare. Accessed 9 April 2010 from

Fraley, J. (2006) Montana Outdoor Portraits: Snowshoe Hare.  Accessed 9 April 2010 from

Grange, W.B. (1932) The Pelages and Color changes of the Snowshoe Hare, Lepus Americanus Phaeonotus, Allen. Journal of Mammology, 13(2), pp. 99 – 116

Harris, T. (2010) How Animal Camouflage works.  Accessed 9 April 2010 from

Keith, L.B. (2010) Hinterland’s Who’s Who – Mammal Fact Sheet: Snowshoe Hare.  Accessed 9 April 2010 from [online]

The National Geographic  Society (2010) Snowshoe Hare: Lepus Americanus. Accessed 9 April 2010 from

Wikipedia (2010) Snowshoe Hare. Accessed 9 April 2010 from

Pictures Used:

Alice in Wonderland 2010 poster Alice and the Rabbit. Uploaded on February 22 2010 by christopher_aquino at  Accessed 9 April 2010 from

Snowshoe Hare: Lepus Americanus. Photograph taken by Michael S. Quinton for the National Geographic Society. Accessed 9 April 2010 from

Snowshoe Hare / Lièvre d’Amérique. Uploaded on April 19, 2008 by Eric Bégin at Accessed 9 April 2010 from

Using Elephants as Earthquake Detectors?

Ever imagined having an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) as a rather sizable earthquake detector? Well, that might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.. or does it?

The article “Did Animals Sense Tsunami Was Coming?” published by the National Geographic News, highlighted that in the recent 2004 tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean, an estimated 150,000 people were killed in a dozen countries. Miraculously, it was noted that in places like India’s Cuddalore coast, where thousands of people died – animals like buffaloes, goats and dogs were found unharmed! At the same time, three elephants were said to have run away from the Patanangala beach at the Yala National Park about an hour before the tsunami hit.

Did the animals – specifically the elephants – have a kind of “sixth sense” that forewarned them of a major disaster before it struck?

Unfortunately, this was found to be untrue. On the day of the tsunami, the movements of these elephants were being tracked using GPS satellite collars. The empirical data strongly indicate that “the movements of these free-ranging elephants are not consistent with flight behavior or other potentially aberrant behaviors attributable to extra-sensory perception or sixth sense, or even with an early response to seismic-borne detection of the earthquake and tsunami” (Wikramanayake, Fernando and Leimgruber, 2006). Another article also documented similiar results, further warning that “in the absence of any evidence of a response of the collared elephants, the anecdotal evidence must be treated with added caution” (Garstang, 2009).

As such, the idea of utilising the elephants, as well as other animals in general, to forewarn humans of imminent natural disasters remains mere wishful thinking – at least for now.


i. “Did Animals Sense Tsunami Was Coming?” by Maryann Mott. National Geographic News, 4 January 2005. URL: (Accessed on 9 April 2010).

ii. Wikramanayake, E.;  Fernando, P. & Leimgruber, P., 2006. Behavioral Response of Satellite-collared Elephants to the Tsunami in Southern Sri Lanka. Biotropica,38(6):775-777.

iii. Garstang, M. 2009. Precursor Tsunami Signals Detected by Elephants. The Open Conservation Biology Journal, 3:1-3.

iv. “Photo by Elephant Country Web” by University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. URL: on 9 April 2010).

Basenji-a BARK-LESS dog.

Basenji comes from Africa, it is trained by the main purpose of helping human beings with hunting in the old days. Basenjis are extremely intelligent dogs breed but they are also highly independent. They are also pretty dogs, because they often clean themselves like cats, unlike other dog breeds always dirty and smelly. They always walk with elegant steps and with their heads high up in the sky. However, the most interesting fact about Basenji is that they are unable to bark like what normal dogs do in daily lives!

It is believed that Basenji originates from wild canids that do not bark. After all, keep silent in the nature is a crucial key to the survival in the wild world. But scientists offer a more scientific explanation for the inability to bark,they discover that the voice box of a basenji is narrower and more uniform in diameter than most dogs, so basenjis will make noise but they don’t usually force it out all at once as a bark.

However it is told that though Basenji is unable to bark, it is not mute either. It can still growl, whine, howl and when it is happy it makes a yodeling sound. It should not be misunderstood  for a growl. A yodeling Basenji is a happy Basenji! Some yodel in a very low tune and some go very high. Especially the males can yodel very low.





-10 most frequently asked questions about Basenjis,

-Basenji FAQ’s,