I was always told that the hare on the moon is pounding rice cakes with a mortar and pestle (Korean folklore). In Chinese folklore, the hare is mixing the elixir of life.
Hare symbolism is featured very prominently in many cultures, stretching from East to West. In a Buddhist legend, Buddha was traveling in the form of a hare with an ape and a fox, when the god Indra came disguised as a beggar to test their hospitality. The animals went out in search of food but only the hare came back with nothing in his hands so he threw himself into the fire so that his flesh would become a meal. Indra rewarded this noble act by casting a shadow of the hare over the moon. [http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/rrRabbits.html] In the Greco-Roman culture, the hares symbolized fertility so eating the parts of the hare could cure sterility. It was also customary for lovers to present each other hares as gifts. The hare was also the sacrificial animal most favorably looked upon by certain goddesses.
The list of all the known connections and associations between hares, Easter, and paganism would by very long. In a similar manner, my attempt to connect these three items to reflect a direct cause-and-effect relationship would also be futile and too messy. With that in mind, would it be sound to argue that the Easter Hare (Bunny) is a Christianized element of pagan symbolism? That the symbolism behind the renewal of spring and the lunar cycle were adaptable to Christian amendments and were easily incorporated into Christian mythology, traditions, and customs?
Of course, this is just the Easter Bunny I'm talking about, which is (or should be) totally overshadowed by the theological and religious meanings behind Easter.
I'm writing my final paper on rabbits AND hares now so just wanted to see if you guys had any opinions on this topic.