The Cryptid Zoo: Jackalope

Most people know the jackalope from picture postcards. It is a popular icon in the American west, typically a creature of taxidermy made by combining a dead rabbit with antlers from a deer or horns from a pronghorn antelope. There are also some jackalope legends. These typically sound lighthearted and as if they are not serious in the slightest. The jackalope is a big joke. Its history is generally traced to a Wyoming resident named Douglas Herrick, who popularized the jackalope in the 1930's.

It might not surprise you that some people actually believe in the jackalope. After all, if you are knowledgable about such matters, you can find at least a few people who believe in virtually anything. In the case of the jackalope, however, this belief reaches farther back than the 1930's and is actually rooted in some bits of reality.

Similar legends of horned or antlered rabbits, minus the fake taxidermy and joking attitude, are found in older European lore. These European jackalopes were called names such as the raurackl and wolpertinger by German and Austrian peasants.

Did people actually see horned rabbits, in Europe or the Americas? The experts say yes. There is a disease found in rabbits, caused by an organism called Shope papillomavirus. Afflicted rabbits develop horn-like growths, sometimes on the head, sometimes on other parts of the body. It is thought that these animals were the original inspiration behind jackalope lore.

Of course, a "real" jackalope would not look like the photos. The horns might or might not be on the head, and there is a very low chance that any particular individual would have horns that looked symmetical or at all natural. A stuffed "real" jackalope could never compete with a fake one.

Since the jackalope mystery seems to be solved without any possibility of it being a new species of animal, this creature is seldom mentioned by cryptozoologists and is generally not considered part of the field of cryptozoology. However, it is an instructive example for cryptozoologists, showing how extremely ridiculous animals can turn out to be real, even if they aren't a new species, and showing how badly deformed members of a known species can sometimes be mistaken for an entirely new species.

You can find out more about the Jackalope from the following sources:

Blackman, W. Haden. The Field Guide to North American Monsters New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Pages 136-137

The Jackalope Conspiracy
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Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Page 119

Novak, Mike. Jackalopes!

Wikipedia, The. Jackalope

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The text on this page is copyright 2005 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.