How Far Can A Hare Swim?

A Western friend spends much time at the window, gazing into Cashel Bay

A Western friend spends much time at the window, gazing into Cashel Bay. Frequently, aided by a telescope (mounted), he notes seals, herons, cormorants, otters and many more. However, a recent high tide provided a novelty. A small rocky island, perhaps sixty yards from shore, has about three square yards of grass atop it. And upon this, as the tide rose higher, was observed a large brown hare. It frequently stuck its nose into the salt water, gazed at the shore, twitched its ears, circumnavigated the islet and even nibbled a bit of grass.

For about an hour it was observed by our friend and was even scrutinised by a common seal, which swam back and forth gazing at the novel island occupant - or usurper. Bets were laid as to whether hares could swim or not. Eyes were elsewhere for perhaps ten minutes, and he had disappeared. Obviously, writes our friend, hares swim. But how far? Answers please, he ends. Well, what's to say. Hares do swim, but, you could say, as little as possible. There is the story of the hare which was startled by some people walking on one side of a wide stream. The hare ran to cross it. At the same time a swan was gliding down water and so the hare (economy of effort here) jumped onto the swan's back and from there to the far bank.

A French sporting magazine runs old hunters' and fishers' stories, and one featured the hare that didn't want at all to swim, though it could. The fisherman was out on the flooded banks of one of the big French rivers, in a light metal boat. He espied, on the top of a hollow willow tree, which had been isolated by the high water, a hare perched. It wasn't very high, so the sportsman moored his light boat to the foot of the tree and went up the hollow inside to rescue the hare. But this puss had other ideas. It sprang down into the sportsman's skiff, which, under the shock of the landing hare, slipped its loose rope tie. So the hare floated away and the fisherman had to wait until some other boatman came along. It was not recorded when the hare got out on dry land.

James Fairley points out that mammals, in swimming, more or less walk. They can submerge almost completely and still keep their nostrils above water. Man's posture is more complicated. So again, how far can a hare swim? As far as necessary, though, presumably for the hare, the shorter the better.