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Class Mammalia
Order Lagomorpha
Family Leporidae


Lepus californicus—Black-tailed Jackrabbit // Lepus townsendii—White-tailed Jackrabbit

Lepus sp.—JackrabbitsRegional Pleistocene distribution of Lepus sp.

Five species of jackrabbits occur today in our region: the Black-tailed Jackrabbit (L. californicus) is nearly ubiquitous from the lower part of the Ponderosa Pine zone to low desert; the White-tailed Jackrabbit (L. townsendii) is limited to the sagebrush plains from about Taos northward and to open parkland on top of the San Juan Mts. of New Mexico (Findley et al. 1975); the Snowshoe Hare (L. americanus) occurs in the spruce-fir forest zone of the Sangre de Cristo-San Juan complex of northern New Mexico, the Antelope Jackrabbit Lepus alleni occurs in south-central Arizona south into Sonora and Sinaloa, and the White-sided Jackrabbit (L. callotis) is known from the bootheel of southwestern New Mexico, thence south into Mexico.

Outside of New Mexico, the White-tailed Jackrabbit tends to be more northern in distribution than the Black-tailed, but they overlap extensively in the Great Basin and Great Plains; in the zone of overlap, the Black-tailed Jackrabbit tends to inhabit the drier, more disturbed areas and, as a result, is displacing the other species through much of the area of overlap. The White-sided Jackrabbit occurs primarily in the highlands of northern Mexico; at present, it has not been discriminated from the Black-tailed on the basis of osteological material.

Another species, the large Antelope Jackrabbit (L. alleni) occurs in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Sonora. It is mentioned here primarily because it has been listed, apparently erroneously, as a fossil for New Mexico.

Discrimination among members of the genus (and between the Snowshoe Hare and Mountain Cottontail) is difficult. Lepus townsendii averages larger than L. californicus, but is not enough larger to allow sure identification of most material. The feature found most useful is based on a relatively small sample of L. townsendii; the cementum of the lower cheek teeth is thinner than in L. californicus, and a simple ratio of trigonid width to the constriction between trigonid and talonid separates most teeth of the two species from p4 to m2. However, p4 must be compared to p4, m1 to m1, etc.

Schultz and Howard (1935) referred jackrabbit material to Lepus alleni and L. townsendii; examination of their material indicates that identification beyond the level of genus is unwarranted. The record of Lepus sp. from the Bautista Badlands is highly suspect, being based on a calcaneum and podial.

At present, Lepus americanus is unrecognized as a fossil from our region. This possibly is a result of confusion with Sylvilagus nuttallii; the species mimic each other to considerable degree, and elements likely to allow discrimination seldom are preserved.


Late Blancan: Virden (Morgan et al. 2008: cf.).

Irvingtonian: Bautista Badlands (Frick 1921); El Golfo (Croxen et al. 2007); Tijeras Arroyo (Morgan and Lucas 2005: cf.).

Late Irvingtonian: Elsinore: Pauba Formation (Pajak et al. 1996).

?Irvingtonian/Rancholabrean: Cadiz (Jefferson 2014: Cf.); Emery Borrow Pit (Jefferson 1991b).

Irvingtonian/Rancholabrean: Manix Lake (Jefferson 1991b).

Latest Irvingtonian: Turner Springs (Jefferson 2014).

Rancholabrean: Bitter Springs Playa (Jefferson 1991b); Broadwell Lake West (Jefferson 1991b); Calico Road (Jefferson 1991b); Centennial Parkway, Las Vegas Valley (Jefferson et al. 2015); Clay Mine Road (Jefferson 2014); Cool Water Coal Gasification Solid Waste Site (Jefferson 1991b); Detention Basin, Upper Las Vegas Wash (Jefferson et al. 2015); Eagle Crest (Jefferson 2014); Edwards Air Force Base (Jefferson 2014); Fenley Hunter (Jefferson et al. 2015); Hawes (Jefferson 2014); Helendale (Jefferson 1991b); Hoffman Road (Jefferson 2014); Kramer (Jefferson 1991b); Las Vegas Wash 6 (Jefferson et al. 2015); Manchester and Airport boulevards (Jefferson 1991b); National City West (Jefferson 2014); Pinto Basin (Jefferson 2014); Piute Ponds (Jefferson 2014); Piute Valley (Jefferson 1991b: sp. large and sp. small); Saltmarsh (Jefferson 1991b); Silver Lake (Jefferson 1991b); Tramperos Creek (Morgan and Lucas 2005); Tule Springs 1(Jefferson et al. 2015); Tule Springs 4 (Jefferson et al. 2015); Tule Springs 5 (Jefferson et al. 2015); Tule Springs 6 (Jefferson et al. 2015); Tule Springs Scraper (Jefferson et al. 2015).

Sangamon: San Pedro Lumber Co. (Jefferson 1991b).

Wisconsin: Danby Lake (Jefferson 1991c).

Mid Wisconsin: Devil Peak (Jefferson et al. 2015); Papago Springs Cave (Czaplewski and Mead et al. 1999); Tank Trap Wash (Van Devender et al. 1987); Tunnel View #8A(2) (Van Devender and Bradley 1990); U-Bar Cave (Harris 1987).

Mid/Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Jimenez Cave (Messing 1986); Rampart Cave (Lindsay and Tessman 1974); Sierra Diablo Cave (UTEP).

Late Wisconsin: Bat Cave (Harris 1993c); Bison Chamber (Harris 1970a); Dust Cave (Harris and Hearst 2012); Human Corridor (Harris 1993c); Isleta Cave No. 2 (UTEP); Lehner Ranch (Mead et al. 2005); Murray Springs (Mead et al. 2005); Palo Verde Mesa (Jefferson 2014); Red Tail Peak Midden (Jefferson 1991b); Skull Cave (Emslie 1988); Tunnel View #10 (Van Devender and Bradley 1990); U-Bar Cave 18-20 ka (Harris 1989); Valley Wells (Reynolds et al. 1991).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Baldy Peak Cave (Harris 1993c); Beyond Bison Chamber (Harris 1970a); Burnet Cave (Schultz and Howard 1935); Conkling Cave (Conkling 1932); Deadman Cave (Mead et al. 1984); Schuiling Cave (Jefferson 1991b); Sheep Camp Shelter (Harris 1993c); Tule Springs (Mawby 1967).

Literature.Croxen et al. 2007; Conkling 1932; Czaplewski and Mead et al. 1999; Emslie 1988; Findley et al. 1975; Frick 1921; Harris 1970a, 1987, 1989; 1993c; Harris and Hearst 2012; Jefferson 1991b, 1991c, 2014; Jefferson et al. 2015; Lindsay and Tessman 1974; Mawby 1967; Mead et al. 1984; Mead et al. 2005; Morgan and Lucas 2005; Messing 1986; Morgan et al. 2008; Pajak et al. 1996; Reynolds et al. 1991; Schultz and Howard 1935; Van Devender and Bradley 1990; Van Devender et al. 1987.


Lepus californicus—Black-Tailed JackrabbitRegional Pleistocene distribution of Lepus californicus.

Tebedge (1988) recorded this species from Dark Canyon Cave, but noted that he could not reliably separate this species from L. townsendii.

Fig 1. Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus). Photograph courtesy of Lauri L. Lear.

Lepus californicus, image by Lauri Lear


Medial Irvingtonian: SAM Cave (Rogers et al. 2000).

Irvingtonian/Rancholabrean: Archer (Jefferson 1991b).

Early Rancholabrean (Illinoian): Shoshone Zoo (Jefferson 2014).

Rancholabrean: Cool Water Coal Gasification Site (Jefferson 1991b: cf.); Flowing Wells No. 3 (Jefferson 1991b); Papago Springs Cave (Skinner 1942).

Rancholabrean/?Early Holocene: Mitchell Caverns (Jefferson 1991a).

Sangamon: Naval Fuel Reserve Quarry (Jefferson 1991b).

Wisconsin: Carpinteria (Wilson 1933); Costeau Pit (Jefferson 1991b); Glen Abbey (Majors 1993).

Early/Early-Mid Wisconsin: Balcony on Lost Valley (Harris 1993c); Lost Valley (Harris 1993c); Rm Vanishing Floor (Harris 1993c); Sabertooth Camel Maze (Harris 1993c).

Mid Wisconsin: McKittrick (Schultz 1937); Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003); Shonto (Mead et al. 2005); U-Bar Cave (UTEP).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (Tebedge 1988); Diamond Valley (Springer et al. 2009); Hampton Court (Harris 1993c); Pintwater Cave (Hockett 2000: cf.); Pit N&W Animal Fair (Harris 1993c); Rancho La Brea (Stock and Harris 1992).

Mid Wisconsin-Holocene: Shelter Cave (Harris 1993c).

Late Wisconsin: Algerita Blossom Cave (Harris 1993c: cf.); Antelope Cave (Reynolds, Reynolds, Bell, and Pitzer 1991); Big Manhole Cave (Harris 1993c); Blackwater Loc. No. 1 (Morgan and Lucas 2005); Cueva Quebrada (Lundelius 1984: cf.); Folsom (Morgan and Lucas 2005); Maricopa (Jefferson 1991b); Mountain View Country Club (Jefferson 2014); TT II (Harris 1993c); U-Bar Cave 13-14 ka (Harris 1989: ?); U-Bar Cave 14-15 ka (Harris 1989); U-Bar Cave 15-18 ka (Harris 1989); Upper Sloth Cave (Logan and Black 1979: cf.); Ventana Cave (Colbert 1950).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Aden Fumarole (Harris 1993c); ; Calico Lakes (Jefferson 1991b: cf.); Fowlkes Cave (Dalquest and Stangl 1984b); Isleta 1 (UTEP); Isleta Cave No. 2 (UTEP); Kokoweef Cave (Reynolds Reynolds, et al. 1991); Luz Solar Trough (Jefferson 1991b: cf.); Newberry Cave (1991b); Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003); SAM Cave (Rogers et al. 2000); Solar One (Jefferson 1991b: cf.); Stanton's Cave (Olsen and Olsen 1984); Williams Cave (Ayer 1936).

Literature. Ayer 1936; Colbert 1950; Dalquest and Stangl 1984b; Harris 1989, 1993c, 2003; Hockett 2000; Jefferson 1991b, 2014; Logan and Black 1979; Lundelius 1984; Mead et al. 2005; Morgan and Lucas 2005; Olsen and Olsen 1984; Reynolds, Reynolds, et al. 1991; Reynolds, Reynolds, Bell, and Pitzer 1991; Rogers et al. 2000; Schultz 1937; Skinner 1942; Springer et al. 2009; Stock and Harris 1992; Tebedge 1988; Wilson 1933.


Lepus townsendii—White-tailed JackrabbitPleistocene distribution of Lepus townsendii.


Late Blancan: San Simon Fauna (Morgan and White 2005).

Wisconsin: Maze NE Entrance Dry Cave (Harris 1993c).

Mid Wisconsin: Pendejo Cave (Harris 2003).

Mid/Late Wisconsin: Dark Canyon Cave (Harris 1993c); Hampton Court (Harris 1993c); Pit N&W Animal Fair (Harris 1993c).

Late Wisconsin: Algerita Blossom Cave (Harris 1993c: cf.); Animal Fair 18-20 ka (Harris 1989); Camel Room (Harris 1993c); Charlies Parlor (Harris 1989); Harris' Pocket (Harris 1970a); Rick's Cenote (Harris 1993c); Gypsum Cave (Jefferson et al. 2015); Stalag 17 (Harris 1993c); Sheep Camp Shelter (Gillespie 1985); U-Bar Cave (Harris 1993c: cf.).

Late Wisconsin/Holocene: Balcony Room (Harris 1993c: cf.); Howell's Ridge Cave (Harris 1993c); Isleta Cave No. 1 (Harris 1993c); Isleta Cave No. 2 (Harris 1993c).

Literature. Gillespie 1985; Harris 1970a, 1989, 1993c, 2003; Jefferson et al. 2015; Morgan and White 2005.


Last Update: 25 May 2015