Pika, a small furred animal found in the high mountains of eastern Europe, Asia, and western North America. It is sometimes called rock rabbit, whistling hare, or little chief hare, but is only distantly related to hares and rabbits. There are two North American species—the common pika and the collared pika. Both are brownish-gray; the collared pika has a pale gray on its neck and shoulders. The pika is from 6 to 8 ½ inches (15 to 22 cm) long. It has broad, round ears and no visible tail. The cry is a high-pitched squeak.

Pikas live in the rock debris at the foot of mountain slopes, usually at altitudes near the timberline. They gather vegetation dry it in the sun to be used for food nesting material during the colder season.

Which Rabbit Relative Doesn’t Leap?

The pika belongs to the same animal group as rabbits and hares. But you wouldn’t know it by seeing one. The pika looks more like a mouse or a guinea pig than a rabbit. Its feet are very short. Instead of leaping, the pika gets around by running.

Pikas live high in the mountains of Asia, Europe, and western North America. The American pika is only about 7 inches (18 centimeters) long.

Another name for the American pika is the calling hare or whistling hare. Pikas live in a large group called a colony. One pika will make a loud, whistling call to warn the other pikas of an enemy nearby. Then the whole colony of pikas will scamper into hollows under large rocks to hide.

Why Is a Pika Called a “Haystacker”?

A pika digs a burrow as its home. It then gathers and stacks large piles of hay near the burrow for food. Because of this, the pika is known as a “haystacker.”

A pika’s hay pile may grow to weigh as much as 18 pounds (8 kilograms). It can get so big that other animals sometimes come and steal the hay.

Building such a big haystack takes a lot of work. But pikas don’t mind the hard work. They don’t hibernate when the winter weather turns cold. Instead, they gather food in advance for the winter months. Pikas spend most of the day collecting hay, plant stems, and other food to store near home.

Pikas make up the family Ochotonidae. The common pika is Ochotona princeps; the collared pika, O. collaris.