The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore (a fearsome critter) described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. The word “jackalope” is a portmanteau of “jackrabbit” and “antelope”, although the jackrabbit is not a rabbit, and the pronghorn is not an antelope. Many jackalope taxidermy mounts, including the original, are made with deer antlers.
In the 1930s, Douglas Herrick and his brother, hunters with taxidermy skills, popularized the American jackalope by grafting deer antlers onto a jackrabbit carcass and selling the combination to a local hotel in Douglas, Wyoming. Thereafter, they made and sold many similar jackalopes to a retail outlet in South Dakota, and another taxidermist continues to manufacture the horned rabbits in the 21st century. Stuffed and mounted, jackalopes are found in many bars and other places in the United States; stores catering to tourists sell jackalope postcards and other paraphernalia, and commercial entities in America and elsewhere have used the word “jackalope” or a jackalope logo as part of their marketing strategies. The jackalope has appeared in published stories, poems, television shows, video games, and a low-budget mockumentary film. The Wyoming Legislature has considered bills to make the jackalope the state’s official mythological creature.
The underlying legend of the jackalope, upon which the Wyoming taxidermists were building, may be related to similar stories in other cultures and other historical times. Researchers suggest that at least some of the tales of horned hares were inspired by sightings of rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus. It causes horn- and antler-like tumors to grow in various places on a rabbit’s head and body.
Folklorists see the jackalope as one of a group of fabled creatures common to American culture since Colonial days. These appear in tall tales about hodags, giant turtles, Bigfoot, and many other mysterious beasts and in novels like Moby-Dick. The tales lend themselves to comic hoaxing by entrepreneurs who seek attention for their products, their persons, or their towns.
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