Miss K of Bristol has written to the Brown Advisor in search of some tangible distinctions between the hare and the rabbit warren or conigree.
I took this question to our monthly convention at the Tatler’s Waste-bin, but I’m afraid Miss K, I found little joy there. Sometimes even the most excellent questions, such as yours, being received by minds elsewhere, will fall upon deaf ears.
Left to fend your question without the assistance of my companions, I might suggest that two species initially similar have been encouraged in two different directions by their contact with humans. Rabbits learned to burrow and to breed, and thus the rabbit warren is an enclosed place, surrounded by fence or, still better, a moat, and might be furnished with artificial burrows or ‘pillow mounds’. Hares by contrast learned to hide in woods, being so hunted during the middle of the eighteenth century that they were not safe in the open ground that they preferred. A rabbit warren will tend to be a filthy place, the rabbits being enclosed, numerous and fed with scraps. A hare warren on the other hand will be an open smooth grass field set with large clumps or woods to provide cover. If the walls of the hare warren survive then they should have little opening at the base so that the hares can be let out into the surrounding country, but lured back in with feeding when they are to be hunted. On those days the openings (‘muses’ or ‘mews’ as they are known) will be closed to prevent the quarry escaping. A hare warren is a place for hunting, but if you wished to hunt a rabbit, you might take a spaniel and a terrier down the sides of a hedge, where the wild rabbits will have made their home. The profit in warrened rabbits came from their skins.