Springhaas are part of the rodent order, but are not that closely related to other rodents. They are really in a class of their own. When people see a springhaas (sometimes called springhare) for the first time, they think it is a mix of different animals, which is of course impossible. But, they have a head somewhat like a deer, teeth like a beaver that do require wood chewing to keep their constantly growing teeth in check, a kangaroo-like body (no pouch) with full hopping capabilities, and a beautiful fluffy tail much like a fox.
Springhaas as Pets
As pets, I find springhaas to be relatively intelligent, non-aggressive, and fun to watch. Not many of them like to be cuddled or held for long periods, however, the ones we've raised as babies (including Gizmo) love attention and as they age and settle down, they will sit in our laps for extended times. This is likely a result of being hand-raised and handled extensively from the moment they are born.
Compared to other exotic pets, keeping springhaas in captivity as a pet is relatively easy (see feeding and clean-up below) and definitely fun! Your experience will probably vary based on how the haas was raised. All of ours have become sweet natured once worked with, but it takes time (sometimes months!) if you didnít raise the springhaas yourself and the haas was not handled a lot when young. However, if the haas was hand-reared and treated well, it should be no problem to fairly quickly establish a loving relationship. All of our babies born to us are the most wonderful pets! As I write this, Gizmo is now nearly 1 and a half years old. She follows us around the house, hops in our laps for attention, and loves to be held and petted. Of course, sometimes, she prefers to just hop around the house. Since Gizmo was born, we've raised two additional babies with similar results. They are very tame when house-reared.
It is important to note that they can be destructive in the house. Some are not at all destructive, while others are very much so. We currently have a small herd of springhaas living in our house and I've come to believe that much of their behavior is based upon their past experience and training. Of the adults that we've purchased, some have come to us less trained than others. Those from an outdoor environment had to be trained to not chew things that are outside their enclosures, such as furniture, carpets, etc. One adult that we purchased came to us very well behaved already and has never destroyed items in the house. All of our babies do try to chew household things as they grow up, but are quickly and consistently told "no". After time, they do learn what is not acceptable and will eventually cease doing it. The worst experience we've had still had a good outcome and was well worth it. It was with one particularly active female who came to us as a 6 month old reared outdoors with no househo ld training. She was quite destructive for awhile, but now at 2 years old, she rarely does anything bad.
Notice that I mentioned they chew. Yes, they chew things! They will chew any wood item such as furniture, walls, etc. They will chew electrical wires (a favorite)! They will chew shoes. We always keep branches of non-toxic trees/shrubs (we use mostly butterfly bush limbs) in their enclosure for them to chew. They need to chew to wear down their constantly growing teeth. If they donít, their teeth will overgrow and they wonít be able to eat. A couple of ours are quite content with chewing the branches and nothing else, but a couple others will chew other items when they are loose in the house and must be closely supervised for that reason (plus, weíve put thick plastic sleeves around wires that are in an area they have access to). Chewing is the most destructive thing they do, and as mentioned above, they can be trained to not chew household items, but it takes longer to train them than it would a dog.
To make things easier with indoor rearing, it is best to build a large specialized safe area for them (this is really required for outdoors too though), and supplement this with letting them have a run of the house while supervised. That way, they are mostly in their own place that is safe for them and where they can't destroy things when you aren't around, and when you are around, they can run and hop through the house to get more exercise. Our springhaas enclosures have metal sheets (thin corrugated metal) attached to a 2x4 wooden frame for walls with the metal on the inside and wood on the outside because they will chew any wood product. In the corners, we drilled rounded pipe so that they can't reach their fingers and nails into the small cracks where the metal walls meet. Our floor is tiled, and part of it is covered with rubber stall mats that are made for horses, therefore too thick for them to chew (what really prevents them from chewing these is that they are too heavy for the haas to lift up and bring to their mouths). That works great. When they are hot, they will lay on the cool tile, otherwise theyíll stay on the mats. Both are easy to clean. We ended up putting a wire mesh top on the enclosure because they are very industrious and will move and pile burrow boxes and other items to use as stepping stones to hop out of even tall enclosures. Don't use a wire mesh for the sides! They will hop into it and entangle themselves resulting in injury! The type of enclosure that we've made is a little dark inside because light can only enter from above, but since they are nocturnal, that is probably preferred. We have had one get caught in the wire mesh top once! So now, our roofs are not fastened tightly so that they will flop up when one jumps up to hit it. They may be able to escape, but at least they won't get hurt. We keep ours in a room with a closed door, so if one does escape (hasn't happened yet) while we are gone, they will not get far. That room has no electrical wires available to them, so is safe.
Not all springhaas can be kept together, and problems may come up as time goes by when keeping multiples together. If they were held together in the past, you'll probably have no problems. If not, be careful, especially if they are the same gender.
Our adult females are the most aggressive with other haas, and then only towards other females. But our younger females who were raised together get along fine.
If the enclosure is outdoors, it will also need to account for their digging ability, and walls will need to be dug down into the ground. An outdoor enclosure should also have a roof or enclosed top to not only prevent them from jumping out (they can jump higher than you'd expect!), but also prevent predators, including birds of prey, from harming the springhaas. Springhaas are generally non-aggressive and are prey items in the wild, so you'll need to provide extra protection for them if they are kept outdoors. Again, I do not recommend using wire mesh for the reasons described above. If you have to use it, get the smallest mesh possible so less body parts can get tangled.
Perhaps an even bigger concern with outdoor living is temperature. The Glen Oak Zoo states that ideal temperatures for springhaas in captivity is 60-80 degrees. Hmmm, very similar to indoor conditions. The same source claims they can tolerate close to freezing but not actually freezing temperatures for a minimum range and about 100 degrees as a maximum. I think those minimums are too low. Of course, we keep ours mostly in the ideal range, although some summer high temps have been above 90 without them showing any stress. However, it is the cold temperatures that worry me. If springhaas are kept outdoors, they will need an additional heat source on cold nights. Personally, I would not want to see their temperatures below 50. Our springhaas huddle and indicate that they are cold when our house temps drop into the low 60s! So, I would think it would be very uncomfortable for them to be in the 40s, and if they aren't used to it, it could have adverse consequences on their health and survival! So if they are kept outdoors, they should have access to a little house with adequate heat and on cold nights, should be prevented from leaving the house for their own good. Remember too, that they WILL chew electrical cords, so heat and light sources should have wiring that is blocked off from their access.
Feeding captive springhaas is easy. Ours eat unsweetened cob (livestock feed), sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, green leafy vegetables (we get the tubs of herbal mixes sold at Costco), and corn. In addition to these foods, mine also eat timothy hay, Mazuri leaf eater biscuits, Mazuri rodent chow, and other brands of rodent chow that have seeds in it. We do try to vary the various store-bought chows to give them a variety of nutrients since none are specifically designed for springhaas. They LOVE peanuts in the shell, and we give them as treats for good behavior or cute tricks.
About bathroom habits, that is perhaps the best part. None of Ours have ever dirtied the house outside of their own enclosures. It is something they've just naturally done. So all messes are kept within their cages. Mostly, their messes are dry and easy to clean up. The fecal matter consists of small, dry pellets that a handbroom can sweep into a dustpan each morning. Their bodies recycle their urine, so they urinate infrequently and in small quantities: a great characteristic in a pet, if you ask me!
The workload is as follows. They can make large messes with the wood chips from chewed wood, seed hulls, and dry small fecal matter, but the messes are quite easy to clean each morning. I keep a small hand broom/dustpan set and bucket nearby and each morning spend a few minutes to quickly sweep up most of the mess. Once a week, we spend about 20 minutes doing a more thorough job. About twice a month, we take the stall mats out to the yard to hose, disinfect, and brush them clean, which takes about 45 minutes.
Each evening, they are allowed run of most of the house and we watch them as we do our other evening activities. Many of ours are easy to have loose and spend a lot of time loose, but sometimes we have one that is a greater challenge (primarily chewing furniture), and we canít let that one stay out as long as the others. We have found that it is due to a couple of different things. The most important is how they were reared when young and did they receive any training. However, even with good rearing and training for indoor living, a particular haas will have good and bad periods of behavior as they age, and even when they grow older, they will have an occassional day where they just want to do things they aren't supposed to. Don't we all?
They are fed when they are returned to their enclosures right before we go to bed. Feeding takes about 20 minutes as we have several haas and usually have to microwave the frozen corn to thaw it.
Ours have had very few health problems. Occassionally with all the jumping about, a bad landing will result in broken teeth. So if they stop feeding, that should be the first thing to check. Without those front teeth, they can't chew their food. This means, you will need to puree their food or use sweet potato baby food and hand feed them until their teeth grow back (about 2-3 weeks...these are FAST growing teeth). Because they are rodents, their teeth grow contantly throughout their lives, so this is a short-term problem when it happens. The only other problem we've had was a bladder infection which cleared up with antibiotics. Be sure to keep the nails trimmed to prevent overgrowth. Lifespan in captivity has said to be about 15-17 years of age, but the Mesker Park Zoo in Indiana has one that is at least 19 years old.
Gizmo The Springhaas! Welcome to the World!
Raising a baby springhaas in captivity is VERY difficult. We've raised three now, and have been successful with each one. However, it is unbelievably time-consuming and takes extreme patience and care. To illustrate, I'm going to use our experience with Gizmo as an example.
Newborn: Gizmo is a female springhaas born on July 10, 2006. She was 10.4 ounces when born. Like other springhaas mothers in captivity, her mother did not care for her. With her previous owner, the mother had killed other babies so we knew Gizmo would need to be hand-raised by us, and we separated her from her mother right away. She was placed in an aquarium that had a reptile heater attached to the outer bottom. The inside was lined with towels. That way, the baby could choose if she wanted warmer or cooler temperatures. Iíve noticed that she nearly always rested in the warm side of the aquarium.
On day 1 (birthday being day 0), we took her to a vet for a check-up and she passed with flying colors. The only issue was the vet told us that Gizmo was a male, and that the external parts would develop later. Not true! Gizmo was actually a female, and since then, we've had a baby male. They are born with obvious male parts. We were concerned she wasnít eating enough because she appeared very thin to us, but were assured not to worry. During the next week, she ate between 40-60 mls of formula daily, which is within the recommended level by the vet (they were right about this). Weíve raised puppies before and were used to chubby little pups, but springhaas are just not chubby when they are babies. The long hind legs make them look quite bony. Another item of note is that during the first few days, there was very little urine or fecal output. That definitely changed as time went on. By day 4, urination greatly increased, and by day 5, firm fecal pellets were regularly produced, but not in large quantities.
By the end of day 2, Gizmo's eyes cracked open a tiny bit, increasing to 10% open by day 4 and 20% open by day 5. Her mobility gradually increased as well. On day 1, she could sit up but not stand without wobbling and falling over. On day 3, she could walk on all 4s but not on only the hind two legs as is typical for older springhaas. By day 4, she started to hop, but using his front legs as support, and became more proficient each day. By day 6, we started to allow her to exercise outside of the aquarium a few short times each day.
At 9 and 10 days old, Gizmo began to hop on her hind legs without aid from the front ones. She now truly looks like a tiny springhaas as she leaps rather clumsily across the floor. At this age, her weight was 12 ounces.
Gizmo at 11 days old with perked up ears.
At five weeks of age, Gizmo is a whopping 15.2 ounces and can now hop up to the couch even though she isnít measurably taller. She is now able to eat several wafer thin slices of veggies at a time, but is still also eating formula, and quite a bit of it. She is down to 4 feedings of formula a day and the quantity ranges from 12-17 ml at each feeding. She is still very loveable with humans and likes to snuggle on our shoulders near our necks.
At 3 months of age, Gizmo is finally weaned. Our vet has had previous experience with springhaas in zoos and said it was common for springhaas to wean as late as 3-4 months of age. The workload has decreased significantly since bottle feeding ended, and raising a baby springhaas has been much more work than we ever imagined, even with all of our prior animal raising experience! Below are some pictures of Gizmo at 3 months of age in various sleeping positions. She loves her fluffy white bed; all of our hand-reared ones love their beds, but the outdoor reared ones prefer no beds. All springhaas sleep in a wide variety of positions, including flat on their backs, bellies, sides, and rolled up in a ball.
It is nearly a year and half later, and Gizmo still loves human companionship and hops on the couch to join us. She gets along with all other springhaas, however, our older ones not reared by us do not appreciate her, so we do let her live and play with the other young, friendly ones, but not the parents.