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How to Draw Animals: Hares and Rabbits

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Hares and rabbits are often confused with each other because of their hopping movement and long ears. To draw them accurately, we need to understand what makes them so similar and why actually they're so different. In this tutorial I'll show you details of their anatomy that you need to take into account in your drawings.

Common Body Features of Hares and Rabbits

Basic Anatomy 

First of all, both hares and rabbits are agile mammals with very long and strong hind legs that they use for hopping. They both have rodent-like teeth, long ears and short, fluffy tails. The overall silhouette of their body is very similar, so you can easily use the skeleton and muscles of a hare (below) to draw a rabbit. The anatomical schemes below can be used as a base for these animals.

Hare skeleton
Hare muscles

Movement

Both hares and rabbits use galloping gait based on fast "pushing" of strong hind legs. In this movement hind legs are almost bound, while forelegs move more independently.

A rabbit and hare's run cycle

Paws

Hares and rabbits have four fingers at every paw, without distinctive paw pads. They're flat, strong, with long claws designed for digging. The claws may be heavily covered with hair, creating a look of elongated, clawless fingers.

Side view of the paw
Front view of the paw

Hind paws, so strongly exploited in the gallop, are much bigger than fore ones. For rabbits the difference isn't very big, but for hares they can be even five times bigger!

Tail

The tail is the most confusing element, mistaken mostly by people who have never taken a good look at a real rabbit or hare. A fluffy ball, so frequently pictured in cartoons, is anatomically illogical. Hares and rabbits have a short, slim tail, fluffy, but also tapered.

Mouth and Nose

Another confusing thing about these animals is their nose. Often pictured as a simple line, it's actually quite a normal nose with an interesting ability to close ("wiggling"). The color of this hidden nose is linked to the color of the fur - dark for hares and pink for light-colored rabbits.

Ears

Characteristic long ears are easy to draw - they start with a cylinder and then they're expanding into a rounded tip. They can move independently, so they're great to make the picture more alive.

What's important, the ears aren't flat - in side view a "bowl" shape can be observed.

Hares' ears are much longer than rabbits' (even twice as long as their head), the latter also have them rounder.

Distinctive Hare Features

Silhouette

A hare can be easily recognized by its slim body with long legs. Hares are also usually bigger than rabbits, unless we're talking about breeds kept for their meat.

Arctic hares' winter fur is white and very thick what changes their silhouette to more rabbit-like.

Head

A hare's head is characterized by its strong slope and a short muzzle. The eyes are placed on the sides, quite high in th skull.

A hare's head - side view
A hare's head - front view

Eyes

A very distinctive feature of hares are their brown eyes contrasting with big, black pupils.The eyelids' rims are dark.

Eye of a hare

Distinctive Rabbit Features

Silhouette

A rabbit is stockier than a hare, with more fluffy fur and shorter legs.

Head

A rabbit's head is rounder, with shorter muzzle and lower placed eyes.

A rabbit's head - side view
A rabbit's head - front view

I think it's the easiest to learn from differences, so take a look at this direct comparison.

A rabbit and a hare head - comparison

Eyes

The eyes are usually so dark that the pupils aren't clearly visible. There's also "eyelashes" of fur, adding a cute look to the eye. The eyelids' rims color is linked to the fur - pink for lightly colored breeds and dark for more wild ones.

Draw a Hare and a Rabbit - Practical Exercise

Let's use all we've just learnt in practice. I suggest you don't just redraw the example, but rather follow what I'm doing on your own, using the materials from the part above to create your own picture. This way you'll learn the most!

Step 1

Start with "skeletons" of your animals. You can use any frame from the hopping movement for a natural pose. If you find this problematic, take a look at my article about creating a pose. You can also use a 2D view to make it easier.

Step 2

Add the muscles, using the scheme. Perfect accuracy isn't obligatory - as long as you're drawing for fun, you can take it easy. Stressing individual muscles isn't realistic at all (the contours are usually hidden under fur), but they're very useful for fast shading.

Step 3

Add the head.

Step 4

Add the ears. I used various poses for them to make the picture more interesting.

Step 5

Now, the paws. It may look complicated, but actually these feet are one of the easiest to draw in animal world.

Step 6

Time for the fluffy tails. Nothing can go wrong here!

Step 7

When the sketch is done, you can use it as a base for final lines. Voila - your lineart is done!

We're Done!

Now you can easily tell the difference between a hare and a rabbit, you can also draw them in every pose very accurately. Happy drawing!

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