In the Lutheran translation of the Bible the Hebrew word "arneweth" is translated as 'hare'. This seems to be the correct translation. The Hebrew word "arneweth" is connected with the Arcadian word "annabu", which means "jumper". Besides this we find in the Latin Vulgate the word 'hare' translated as the name of the species "lepus". In the Talmud we can find more evidence that "arneweth" is a hare. The orthodox Jews always translated "arneweth" as a hare. And finally we find confirmation in the Jerusalem Bible-Zoo that the "arneweth" is a hare.
There are two kinds of hare in the Holy Land – lepus syriacus and lepus aegtiacus. There are only small differences between these two kinds of hare and rabbits. A hare is born with open eyes and a full coat of fur; and a hare also has a different tail than the rabbit. However, their feeding habits are similar.
The Bible also uses the Hebrew word "gera" to describe a hare. In most English Bible translations the expression
"cheweth the cud" is used. According to the Talmud the hare is a ruminant (Hul.59a). The Targum considers the hare to be "an animal that chews the cud." (B.Kam 28b).
The hare does not have a stomach with three or four chambers, as is typical for all animals that chew the cud, however, it chews the cellulose food twice, so that the nutrients which were not consumed the first time will be digested. The stomach of the hare is different to that of cattle which have three or four chambers, however, it functions in a similar manner.
The hare excretes two different kinds of droppings. In addition to normal excrement it passes another kind of "pellet", called Caecotroph, which the hare eats again. This type of dropping is usually passed during the night or in the early hours of the morning; an average person would not get to see this procedure. As soon as the Caecotroph is thoroughly chewed and swallowed it is collected in the stomach to be digested a second time.
The Caecotroph is produced in the Caecum (intestine) and is rich in Vitamin B, especially Vitamin B1. This is important for the hare's nourishment. The hare does not just chew the food twice, but as in ruminating cloven-hoofed animals, bacteria breaks down the cellulose. The Bible therefore makes no mistake in stating that the hare chews the cud, as this is now scientifically proven.
The production of Caecotroph was mentioned for the first time in 1882 in a French Veterinary Journal. Since this time many zoologists have described this function as "chewing the cud". Likewise in "Grzimeck's Tierleben", Book 12, pages 421 and 422, hares and rabbits are classed as animals that chew the cud. The classification of the hare as a ruminant is mainly based on the production of Caecotrophs and the bacterial breakdown of cellulose. These are the most important functions of ruminants.
In LEVITICUS 11:6 it was forbidden to eat hare. This commandment was probably given because blood parasites could be transferred through the handling of hare carcasses. This hygiene rule was far ahead of its time.
Translated from the German: "Der Hase"