The Leveret is a member of the rabbit family that lives in the northern areas of Sarvonia up into the icelands of Caelereth. They range as far south as Nyermersys, but tend to be most common in the areas north of the Tandalas, the Celeste Lowlands and the Oros. They are attractive, thick furred rodents with large ears and bright eyes.
Leverets are small animals, approximately a
fore high when on all
fours, or 1 ˝ fores when
sitting up on their haunches. They have beautiful thick fur, which is incredibly
soft, but also slightly water resistant.
It ranges in colour from
adelmirene to cinnabrown
in the summer months and turns cyhalloian white in the winter except for a tuft
of black fur on the tip of each ear.
Usually the pelts are one solid colour but occasionally spotted or mottled Leverets have been seen. Leverets in the upper Tandalas remain white year-round. In the summer, the fur of a Leveret pelt is about two nailsbreadths long; in the winter, nearly four! For a short time in the spring, they look dreadfully patchy and motheaten as the winter fur begins to fall out and the shorter summer coat begins to come in. The fur on the muzzle is finer and shorter, but as Leverets sleep curled up in a tight little ball, with their noses tucked in, they don’t get too cold. They have large, wide ears - about the length and breadth of a woman’s hand with the fingers tightly pressed together - which are also thickly furred and very sensitive. The ears end in a curving point with a tuft of black fur at the tip. Their large, round black eyes are fringed with such long thick lashes they would be the despair of many a noblewoman.
Leverets have long graceful bodies that, when stretched out, measure just over a fore, not including the legs. Their hind legs are longer and stronger than their forelegs and they travel by bounding in great leaps of nearly a ped long. Their forelimbs are small and neat, with tiny paws, the size of a baby’s fist, that end in surprisingly sharp little retractable claws. The hindlimbs also have retractable claws, but the paws are much bigger - about a hand-span long - and a kick from a Leveret has been known to seriously injure a person, as the claws can gouge quite deeply.
Leverets have tails that are about a palmspan long, and about two nailsbreadths in diameter, though they tend to seem thicker because of the heavy pelt. They have scent glands beneath their tails, which emit a heavy musky odour during the mating season. Their sense of smell is quite well-developed and they are very alert, easily startled animals - so much so, that the Kuglimz say of a nervous person that he or she is “jumpy as a Leveret” (lev’shi’kah, lit. “hare jump like”).
There are several varieties of leveret in Caelereth:
These are the ones that are furthest north and in the upper Tandalas. They stay white year round.
They resemble other leverets except are significantly smaller, about half a fore long and reaching to just over a handspan at the shoulders on all fours. They are more commonly found on the northern islands, and remain white year round, except for a black nose and the little ear tufts.
These are the brown ones that turn white in winter. They are the most widely known and generally are the ones people mean when they speak of leverets.
Leverets are similar to tarepi but they are not the same and cannot even interbreed. Leveret young are born with their eyes open and a full coat of fur, whereas tarepi are blind, deaf and hairless. Leverets (except for the miniature variety) are much bigger, with proportionally larger feet and wider ears. Tarepi don't change colour in the winter, and the brown of a Leveret's coat is usually a rich cinnabrown or darker. Tarepi are a grey-brown colour without much variety.
Leverets are able to withstand extremely cold temperature due to their unique
body structure. Not only do they have unusually thick fur, which nearly doubles
in length in the colder months, but they also have a layer of “brown fat” just
beneath the skin, which gets thicker in the fall months as the Leverets begin to
eat vast quantities of food to prepare for the winter. All Leverets share a
peculiarly interesting trait, and that is that they will all change their coat
colour depending on the climate. Even the Ice Leverets, if brought down into
southern Santharia, will turn brown in
summer, though normally they do not change colour. And if one were to place a
brown Leveret in a colder climate zone, over the course of about a month, it
will grow in a thicker, warmer, white coat, and shed the brown.
Territory. The coldest parts of Caelereth are home to this little animal, including the Icelands, Cyhalloi, Akdor and Northern Sarvonia. They are rarely found south of Nyermersys.
Leverets tend to live in solitary dens, dug out in the summer months, which they keep clear of snow in the winter. The dens tend to be long, crooked corridors, which end in a cozy little rooms dug out beyond, with at least one other exit. This allows the Leveret to escape in case of other tunneling creatures or, in the summer, snakes.
Habitat/Behaviour. Leverets do not live in family or pack groups. Rather, they are solitary animals, coming together briefly during mating season in the early spring but then going their separate ways. They are nervous, active animals, but if a predator is near, they will sit absolutely motionless (unless it has spotted them) until it goes away. Leverets do not have a very strong scent, except during the mating season, when even a human can smell the thick musky odour they emit. The Leveret tends to be a nocturnal animal, and the best time to see one is usually early evening, when they start to come out and get more active.
Diet. Leverets, like the tirpan horses, can eat nearly anything. Their main dietary sources are the goldenbell bush seeds and leaves, mutnut leaves, wild carrots, onn leaves, and alth’ho grasses. They are extremely fond of the rik’tyan plant as well. In some areas the Leveret is considered to be quite a pest, as it will freely help itself to people’s gardens if they are not protected or fenced in. And, to be effective at all, the fence needs to extend below the ground at least a fore.
Mating. The Leverets get together in early spring. They emit a strong musky odour from the scent glands beneath their tails. Presumably this enables them to find each other. They will cluster in large groups of twenty or more and the males do a mating display involving high leaps, tumbling rolls and long springs. If the female of their choice is interested, she will watch the performance and then go off with the male to mate. However, her attention is easily distracted and the male may finish his “dance” only to discover that the object of his affections has already gone off with someone else. The Leverets rarely fight, however, and the male will typically go find another female to appreciate his display.
After mating, the pair does not stay together. The males go off to impregnate more females, while the female will build a cozy nest in her den, made of her own winter fur, which is usually beginning to shed at this point anyway. She uses her sharp little claws to comb out the loose fur and piles it into a corner, along with grass, and leaves. The gestation period is about 70 days. The babies are born in litters of six to ten. They are born with their eyes open and a full coat of soft, eophran brown fur, which gradually lightens to adelmirene or cinnabrown (white for the Ice Leverets) as they mature. A newly born Leveret will fit in the palm of a man’s hand. They stay with their mother until the following spring, by which time they are ready to live on their own. They will not mate for another year, however. Leverets have a lifespan of about 7 years, although those that have been raised as pets can live to be 9 or even 10 years old.
Usages. This little animal has a number of uses. The thick heavy pelts are much prized by Kuglimz mothers, who use the furs for trimming on their children’s clothing and for mittens (furry side in) in the winter. The Kuglimz also make an ear protector for winter use, consisting of a long strip of the furry hide which goes over the head and ties beneath the chin. Leverets also provide a delicious meal - they are very versatile and can be stewed, fried, boiled or roasted - especially with weeproot and squilla, two of the favorite flavourings for Leveret meat. Kuglimz children like to keep them as pets and, if raised from birth, Leverets are very affectionate, cuddly animals. Trying to tame a wild one, however, is an exercise in futility.
Myth/Lore. There is no particular lore associated with the Leveret, but there is an interesting little story told about them.
The Ode and the Leveret. Apparently the
researcher Turik, on one of
his trips up to Nyermersys during
the winter, saw some children with their pets and thought they were
enchanting. He acquired a tame one from the family he was staying with and
brought it home with him. He sold it, for a large sum, to a young nobleman
who wanted to impress his lady love. With the assistance of an apprentice
bard, the young noble composed a little ode to his lady, saying that her
hair was soft as its pelt, her lashes longer than its, her fair skin like
to its silken, snow-white beauty, and so on. He gave the animal to a
servant to care for, and it was presented to the lady at a party, in a
covered cage. The ode was read and the animal revealed. Unfortunately the
spring moult had begun and so what everyone saw was the usual mottled,
patchy-looking mess of brown and white that Leverets take on in the spring
until their summer coat is in. To say the least, the lady was not amused.
Dedicated to the Leveret Rabbit is the following excquisite poem, attributed to a Kuglimz female bard of the Fal'cone Kuglim tribe, living sometime in the last century by the name Jaecy Alkimah:
Warm weather bringer
Dearly much doted
Long-eared light dancer
Bounding bright prancer
Leap lightly, leveret
Bring up furred babies
Leap love and laughter
in beauty set
careful of eye
our children by
daring to run
in fanciful fun
on the long plain
when spring comes again
upon the broad plain
Researchers. Alysse of the Fal’cone Kuglimz is the most authoritative researcher on these animals. As a child she kept some as pets and often studied them in the wild as well. She was aided by Turik, who related "The Ode and the Leveret" tale (see Myth/Lore) to her. Alysse disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of the tale herself.
Information provided by Alysse the Likely