Once described as the “fastest, hairiest, most lascivious, and most melancholy” of mammals, the hare was also believed to never close its eyes, occasionally grow horns, and have the ability to change its sex. More than just a speedy, but lazy, character in popular children’s fables, the hare is remarkable for its actual behavior and the intriguing myths that have developed around it. Here, Simon Carnell examines how this animal has been described, symbolized, visually depicted, and sought for its fur, flesh, and exceptional speed.
Carnell tracks the hare from ancient Egypt, where a hieroglyph of a hare stood for the concept of existence itself, to Crucifixion scenes, Buddhist lore, and Algonquin creation myths, to the serial works of Joseph Beuys, and even to an art installation in a Dutch brothel. The hare shows up in both surprising and expected places—it was the principal subject of the first hunting treatise, it appears in the first signed and dated picture of a single animal, and it was credited in early medicine with the most curative properties of any animal.
Combining recent natural history with an extensive and richly illustrated focus on visual art, Hare is highly accessible and packed with details about a historically fascinating animal.