Although there are around 40 species of hares in the world divided into three different genera (Lepus, Caprolagus, and Pronolagus), only six species inhabit Europe, all belonging to genus Lepus. The conservation status of these six species was recently revised in the International Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Lepus castroviejoi and L. corsicanus were attributed the status of “vulnerable”. The other four species, L. europaeus, L. timidus, L. capensis, and L. granatensis, were considered of “least concern” although a declining trend was recognized for the last two species’ wild populations. Here we review the major threats to the hare species in Europe, with emphasis on infectious diseases. Furthermore, we present the sanitary data regarding the Iberian hare populations from Portugal, which were severely affected by the emergence of a naturally occurring recombinant myxoma virus (MYXV), first reported in mid-2018. The recent detection in 2019 of a leporid herpesvirus (LeHV-5), which pathogenicity appears to be exacerbated in MYXV-infected hares, brings additional concerns to the health and conservation of the Iberian hare.
Part of the book: Lagomorpha Characteristics