Three Hares Motif

The 3 hares appear to have 2 ears each;
Yet they have 3 ears between them!

The three hares are a circular ornamental motif.

It is viewed as a puzzle and often cited as an optical illusion or a strange loop!

About Three Hares Motif

Three Hares In A Circle

The 3 three hares depict 3 hares chasing each other in a circle that is interlocked. If 1 hare is taken into account it appears to have both ears. But, if all the 3 hares are taken into account, instead of 8 ears there are only 3 ears. The 3 ears are shared between them. Each ear is shared between 2 adjacent hares. Also, the 3 ears are arranged to form a triangle at the center of the circle.

History Of The Three Hares Motif


The origin of the three hares is not known. The earliest inscription of the three hares motif dates back to the Sui and Tang dynasties (AD 581 to 907). It appears as mural paintings in the ceiling of caves at Dunhuang, China.


The red dot shows sites associated with the three hares across Eurasia
(The journey of Three Hares motif from Asia to Europe)

The opening of the Silk Road also known as the Chinese Silk Trade Route led to the spread of the motif to western countries.  The merchants trading in silk or expensive ceramics might have played a crucial role in the spreading of the three-hare motif.

In the 13th century, it was Pax Mongolica (Latin for Mongol Peace) era. It meant there was trade and tolerance of all things about other cultures was at peak level. During that period the motif appeared in copper coins and metalwork in Middle Eastern countries.

The motif further found its way to Hungary, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, and the British Isles. There the motif was adored in ceramic tiles, wood carvings, stained glass, manuscripts, etc.


The migration of the three hares dates to…

AD 600 China
AD 1100 Afghanistan
AD 1200 Nepal
AD 1200 European countries
AD 1300 England

Use Of Three Hares Motif

Three Hares In A Circle

It has been illustrated by drawing, painting, and sculpture.

The three hares appear in ancient times as a motif in…
– Caves
– Ceramic Tiles
– Coat of Arms
– Copper Mongol Coin
– Illuminated Manuscript Bible
– Metal Works- Polychrome Pottery
– Sacred Buildings
– Stained Glass
– Woven in Silk Cloth & etc.

It is amazing to note that the motif appears in sacred manuscripts and the religious building of all the major religions of the world.

Though it appears in diverse religions and cultures, the original significance of the motif is uncertain. Hence, it remains a mystery.

German Riddle About The Three Hares Motif

Three hares share thee ears,
yet everyone of them has two.

German Riddle

The riddle dates back to the 17th century. This riddle can be found in all the famous wooden synagogues in the Ashkenaz region, Germany.

Three Hares In A Circle Postcard

Three Hares Motif
Three Hares Motif

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