Despite of general warming, for Eurasia the severe continental climate with sharp annual temperature drop is still characteristic. It occurs because of remoteness of the most part of Siberia from influence of oceans. In summer in Siberia heat dominates – the temperature rises up to +35°С. But in winter frosts reach -40°С. Increase of ocean level has resulted in general increase of amount of deposits. Therefore winters in Siberia became very snow, and in spring the high water turns to act of nature for local animals. In such conditions only the animal well adapted to extreme conditions of existence can survive. One of such inhabitants of Siberia is snow harelope. It is the close relative of forest harelope, but this species differs from it in larger sizes and heavy-build constitution. The withers height of this animal reaches 1.7 meters, and weight is about 300 kgs. Also at the snow harelope there are shorter and rounded ears covered with fur from outside.
Ancestors of all species of harelopes, hares from Eurasia, differed in ability to change colouring of fur to winter. Species of harelopes from Europe and Northern Africa had lost this ability, but snow harelope had kept it. Winter fur of this animal is rich and snow-white with plentiful thin underfur. Summer colouring of this animal is brown with light vertical strips on groats and hips. In summer wool on the head of animal there are white marks on cheeks. Ears have black tips; in winter fur tips of ears become grey. On legs of this harelope there are thin fingers covered with the common skin cover which ends by the common cornificate sole. To winter on legs of animal “ski” of wool develop, allowing loping on snow. Due to them snow harelope can move down on slopes of mountains on rear legs bent under.
Snow harelopes escape from predators in flight – they can accelerate momentum up to 60 kms per hour on firm ground and up to 40 kms per hoour on snow. If necessary they can defence against predator by impacts of forward legs and bites. An alarm signal at this species is long shrill whistle.
At snow harelope the precise sexual dimorphism is expressed – male weighs twice more than female (hence the name including concept “hetero-”- “different”). At it the “beard” of wool develops: it is an attribute of its good physical form, and females more willingly pair with the most “bearded” male. This species keeps in harems numbering one male and some females (usually from three up to five animals). It is vital necessity – the male is stronger, rather than females, and in winter it digs out snow to reach last year's grass and evergreen bushes. Females feed on plants dug out by male. If it perishes from predators, females are doomed for starvation, but they can join other harems.
In the beginning of winter male pairs with females of its harem. At this time he is compelled to protect the females from single males challenging to him. At this time males of snow harelope utter cry similar to low, showing the claim on females. They fight with each other, kicking and striking impacts by forward legs. Usually females do not interfere with a course of fight, but occasionally the strongest female can unite the male, and they drive off the applicant for a harem together.
At the end of spring at the female two well advanced fawns are born. They rise on legs in half an hour after birth and at the end of the first day of life already can run quickly. Fawns differ from adult animals in more contrast striped colouring and absence of spots on cheeks. They reach the size of adult animals at the third year of life.