272 pages, 8 plates with colour photos (hardback only); b/w illustrations
The Brown Hare is an animal we all know but rather rarely see, even though it is quite common, active by day and lives in the wide open spaces of classic lowland countryside. It can make itself almost invisible, lying still in its form until it takes off suddenly, fleeing at astounding, breakneck pace. Those lucky enough to see a hare in a moment of stillness, may see in its staring golden eyes a strangeness and mystery that hints at its legendary status. It is a favourite subject of wildlife artists and sculptors in love with depicting its lithe and leggy form in full flight, and its March mating madness. A nationwide treasure-hunt for a golden hare, sparked by Kit Williams' famous 1979 book Masquerade ended with more mystery than it began. It's smaller cousin, the Mountain Hare, is an even greater mystery, living on bleak uplands where snowfall shuts down access in winter. It changes colour with the seasons and is hunted by the great Golden Eagle, but most of us hardly know it exists.
The Way of the Hare explores the lives of both of these hares, in life and in story, and attempts to unravel the real animal from its image in our collective imagination, and examine just why it holds such fascination for us. The Way of the Hare includes accounts of first-hand encounters with wild hares, and research evidence from those who have worked with them and studied them. It is illustrated with line drawings and a section of colour photographs taken by the author. The latter is exlusive to the hardback only.
"Taylor's book is so replete with leporine lore, so completely absorbed with the lives and (often grisly) deaths of our hares that you can't help but see the creatures with new eyes. [...] WH Auden said that in the company of scientists he felt like a shabby curate in a room full of dukes. In this detailed, absorbing study, Taylor makes us all dukes for a day, granting us a privileged glimpse into the life of the hare"
– Alex Preston, The Guardian
"The history is absorbing, the science full of interesting trivia, and the author's passion evident – for Taylor, treatment of the hare is a symptom of our greater relationship with the natural world."
– NPR, Best Books of 2017
"In The Way of the Hare (Bloomsbury), self-styled "wildlife-watcher" Marianne Taylor avoids subjective interpretations, concentrating on the biology, ecology and evolution of my favourite wild mammal. Nevertheless, she begins with a brief survey of hares' mythology and their place in culture (1970s TV character Hartley Hare pops up repeatedly). She broadens out to cover lagomorphs around the world, including both hare species (brown and mountain) and their many subspecies, as well as rabbits and the ultra-cute pika. Her most fascinating sections explore the ecological history of hares in the British Isles. Shooting and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) seem to have been responsible for the hare's decline in much of the region; the current, more environmentally friendly CAP may change things for the better. But as Taylor points out, it is impossible to predict what will happen after Brexit."
– Matthew Cobb, New Scientist 3137, 5 August 2017
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