Now is the time to look for the sight of hares boxing - when a Jack hare starts chasing a Jill hare it is a sure sign of spring. The hares may seem brazen in their conspicuousness, but if a stray greyhound were to take advantage of their amorous distractions the hares would stand a very good chance of getting away. This security comes from the fact that hares have better muscles for jumping and turning than greyhounds. Sarah Williams, a research student in the Structure and Motion laboratory at The Royal Veterinary College, UK, will present her work on Tuesday 4th April at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Main Meeting in Canterbury [session A7].
Greyhounds and hares can both reach top speeds of 20 metres per second and change direction very easily, despite the obvious differences in size. However, there are important differences in the structure of their muscles, which is what gives the hare the advantage over its adversary: the hare's hind-limb hip-extensor muscles are more exaggerated relative to the greyhound's, as are its adductor muscles. "The hip-extensors are most likely used to act as the propulsors of the animal and are important for tasks such as accelerating and jumping, while the adductor muscles enable rapid changes in direction", explains Williams.