The brown hare is thought to have originated in central Asia, spreading west across Europe as forests were cleared for farmland. Brown hares came to Britain with the Romans and established themselves across lowland farmland.
Brown hares are larger than their native 'mountain cousins' which at the time would have been common across lowland areas. Competition for food and territory has forced mountain hares to upland areas where they are better suited to survival than brown hares.
Agricultural improvements and increased predator control in the 18th and 19th centuries led to a substantial population increase and during the late 19th centaury large bags were not uncommon. Trapping for crop preservation was encouraged in the early 20th century and in some parts of Wales and the West Country hares were trapped to extinction. Hunting with beagles, coursing with greyhounds and flying birds of prey over the last two centuries has made brown hares an animal of the chase.
Today, brown hares are valued for their majestic presence as an important farmland species and culinary delight on the table. Brown hares are more abundant along the East coast as this is where the majority of arable land can be found in the UK. Hare numbers can fluctuate from year to year and during years of abundance culling is required to limit crop damage and maintain a healthy population.