ancient egypt: history and culture
Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Hares
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Hare, excerpt from the hunters' palette
From the Hunters' Palette
Guardian, papyrus of Ani
A guardian in the underworld
from the papyrus of Ani
    The Cape hare (lepus capensis) lives in deserted areas, is nocturnal and eats grass, shrubs and the like. Their young are born in depressions rather than hollows, with open eyes and covered in fur. A fast animal, capable of running at speeds of up to seventy kilometres per hour, the hare was only rarely hunted by the ancient Egyptians. According to Plutarch the hare was admired for its keen senses and its speed.
    The hare was the sacred animal of the goddess Unut who was venerated in the 15th nome of Upper Egypt and came to be part of the Horus and Re cults.
    As a desert animal it seems to have evoked thoughts of death, and was associated with its overcoming. After the Middle Kingdom it was part of the world of the goddess Hathor. Connections with the moon, the monthly rhythm and fertility are suspected, but there does not seem to have been a direct connection between the hare[1] and Osiris, as has been suggested.
    Hares were depicted in the occasional hunting scene (Hunter's Palette), in Old Kingdom tomb reliefs, as daemons on apotropaic wands and in depictions in the Books of the Dead. Hare-shaped amulets were quite popular during the Late Period.

[1] Being nocturnal, the hare is a moon-animal in many cultures
Silvia Schroer, 2006, "Hare", in J. Eggler, Ch. Uehlinger, eds., Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East
Manfred Lurker, Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter, Scherz 1998

© January 2006
December 2007