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A jackalope is an animal that has the body of a jack rabbit and horns of an antelope (some variations have the horns of a deer) but are typically larger than the average jack rabbit
There’s also a Persian geographic dictionary that was dated 500 years earlier that included illustrations of the jackalope… but with a single horn
It’s believed that Jackalopes are so rare that they are rarely seen by humans
There are claims that a jackalope is actually a cross between a pygmy deer and a species of rabbit that’s most famously known for its appearance Monty Python and the Holy Grail (this is Rebecca’s snark… not a fact)
While believed to be native to the American west (specifically Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and New Mexico), but the jackalope also has ties to the Old World
- Head of a rabbit
- Sometimes the body of a squirrel
- Antlers of a deer
- Sometimes the legs of a pheasant
Sweden has their own variation, called the Skvader, which is ½ front of a hare and ½ back of a wood grouse (so a bird)
Replicas of these animals (specifically the Wolpertinger) are sold to tourists
Hunting the Jackalope
Despite their cuddly appearance, Jackalopes were known to be quite aggressive against those who would hunt them, often charging hunters and leaving the bloodied and gored
These animals were so aggressive that hunters who were pursuing this beast were advised to wear stovepipes around their legs
In addition to being aggressive, Jackalopes are also known for their speed, reportedly moving so fast they only leave dust behind them (one source said they could reach speeds of up to 90 mph)
Jackalope Facts (With Rebecca)
The Jackalopes hometown of Douglas, Wyoming, which also became a self-proclaimed “Jackalope Capital of the World” in the 1940’s, sells hunting licenses as souvenirs
The form includes rules such as hunters can only hunt the jackalope on June 31 and can’t have an IQ over 72
In June, Douglas hosts an annual Jackalope Day that includes a Mini-Monster Truck Obstacle Course, Mud Volleyball tournaments, a Motorcycle Show and Rally, the Greased Pig Run, and numerous other events for those hoping for a peek at a “real jackalope.”
One source found says Douglas plans to build an 80ft fiberglass jackalope by I-25 to stand over the plains (only one source said this)
Fun Fact: The Jackalope is the state of Wyoming’s mythical creature
(Yes, I checked, and Yes Georgia has a state mythical creature… the Altamaha-ha, which is said to inhabit the steams and mouth of the Altamaha River in SE Georgia. It’s nicknamed “Altie” and looks a bit like the Loch Ness Monster)
Some sources say that the Jackalope could understand human language and could repeat small phrases back.
Reportedly at night, as cowboys would sing to their cowherds, right before turning in to bed, the jackalopes would sing the songs back to the cowboys, all while staying outside of the light of the fire
It’s rumored that the milk from the female jackalope could cure most illnesses, could be an aphrodisiac, and was extremely valuable (but considering how aggressive and elusive this animal was, milking them was a challenge)
Jackalopes have a weak spot, however, rumored to be able to be lured by their favorite liquor: whiskey.
The Real Origins
The first Jackalope was found by Douglas Herrick, resident of Douglas, Wyoming, in 1932 (there’s mixed sources on the exact year, but we’re looking at the 1930’s)
Douglas was a taxidermist and shared the business with his brother, Ralph. Both were trained via mail order (which I guess was the equivalent of being trained via YouTube?)
After a hunting trip, Douglas and Ralph returned with jackrabbits and placed them on a table in their taxidermy shop… next to a pair of horns.
This gave the pair the idea to combine the two and thus the Jackalope was born
From what I can tell the Jackalopes initially became very popular for bars in the mid-west
But wait… Science!
While the Herrick brothers were playing Frankenstein in their taxidermy shop, Richard Shope, an American virologist, took notice of the medieval illustrations of horned rabbits and decided to start investigating
He gathered horns from rabbits (yes… they’re real) that hunters had and started running experiments
He found that the horns were not formed from bone, but instead was formed from keratin (keratin makes up hair, feathers, nails, etc and is considered a fibrous structural protein)
Shope had a hunch, and took these horns, ground them to a fine powder, made a solution, and filtered the powder until he was left with a virus
Some sources say he took this filtered solutions and applied it to non-infected rabbit… who then began to grow horns too
In 1933, the Shope papillomavirus was discovered and was later discovered to be related to the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV.
While HPV can corrupt cells in the cervix and warts in humans, the Shope papillomavirus can cause hard, keratinized horns on rabbits
The Shope papillomavirus is also referred to as “jackalopism”
These growths happen on the rabbit’s head but aren’t limited to growing on the top of the rabbit’s skull
In some cases, these horns can grow around the mouth of the rabbit, preventing it from being able to eat
It’s believed that the illustrations discovered in medieval illustrations is most likely infected rabbits