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Origin and usage
The first mention of March hares in English goes back to the early 16th century, when they were already associated with madness.
The European or brown hare Lepus europaeus is normally a shy and mainly nocturnal creature, but during the breeding season its behaviour changes to a remarkable degree. In spring, hares can be seen chasing one another around the fields, often stopping to hit each other with their paws, looking as if they are boxing. This display is not a contest between males for breeding rights but rather, it seems, females hitting males either to rebuff their advances or to test their determination to mate. Hares’ springtime behaviour led them more than five centuries agoto gain a reputation for madness, though the expression ‘mad as a March hare’ was undoubtedly brought to a wider audience by Lewis Carroll’s use of a character of that name in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. The name of the month of March came into English from Latin via Old French. It is derived from the name of the Roman god of war, Mars, in whose name several festivals were held during this month in ancient Rome.
“In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw round, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”
(Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
fauna, flora, rewilding, wildlife corridor
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