Jackalope

Jackalope

The American Southwest boasts a cryptid and legendary creature known as the “jackalope” – a jack-rabbit hosting antelope horns. The name is simply the combination of a “Jack Rabbit” and “Antelope” as “jackalope”. Many of the taxidermy fake creations sold in stores around the Southwest are actually Jack Rabbits with deer antlers added to them. While a later invention, the “jackalope” is now a solid part of American western folklore. The creature was invented by Douglas Herrick and his brother who were great hunters who possessed mad taxidermy skills, and they grafted deer antlers onto a jackrabbit carcass selling it to a hotel in Douglas, Wyoming. It was such a hit, they started making and selling them in a retail outlet in South Dakota. Another taxidermist took over their craft selling the stuffed creatures as popular art pieces today. They have been added to photos, postcards, greeeting cards, stuffed animals, and many other gifts if gift shops and became a subject to many stories, poems, shows, movies, video games, and almost made it onto the bills of the Wyoming legislature as the state’s legendary creature.

Historically, folklorists believe that the mythical beast was first discussed in legend as some historical sightings of horned hares were reported, most likely from rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus causing a horn or antler-like tumor to grow in various places on a rabbit’s head and body. The fabled creature dates back to the Colonial period of America.

There have been many stories of horned rabbits throughout the world, not restricted to the American Southwest or West. THere was a 13th century Persian work that depicts a rabbit with a single horn represented like a “unicorn”. The two horned rabit appears in Medieval and Renaissance folklore in Bavaria as the wolpertinger. Joannes Jonstonus’ 17th century natural history text “Historiae Naturalis de Quadrupetibus Libre (The History Book of Natural Quadrangles) illustrated such as Animalia Qvadrvpedia et Reptilia (Terra) with Plate XLVII by Joris Hoefnagel (1522-1600) in the 16th century included the horned hare. They described the hybrids as real creatures but were rejected later by 18th cetury scientists. Richard E. Shope, M.D. referenced horned rabbits afflicted with the Shope papilloma virus in a scientific journal dated to 1933 as “horned” or “warty” rabbits. Legends of them also can be found in Asia and Africa as well as other parts of Europe. The Huichol legends of Central America also has references to horned rabbits as the deer getting horns fro the rabbit as the deer and rabbit were to be paired as day signs in the calendar of the Mesoamerican period of the Aztects – twins, as brothers, even the sun and moon.

The Chamber of Commerce in Douglas Wyoming issues Jackalope Hunting Licenses to tourists, good for the official jackalope season for one day – June 31st from midnight to 2 am. The hunter must have an IQ greater than 50 but not over 72. They have issued thousands of these gag licenses. Douglas also has a 8′ statue of a jackalope and the town hosts the annual Jackalope Days Celebration each June. Jackalopes are seen as dangerous creatures, hunters are advised to wear stovepipes on their legs to prevent being gored to death. They are said to mimic the human voice and are known to mimic the voices of cowboys gathered around campfires at night or singing along with their songs. They are supposedly only able to breed during lightning flashes and their antlers make the act difficult despite the fact that hares are known to be extremely fertile.

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