The legend of the horned rabbit of the West — Excessive Nation Information – Know the West


Sooner or later younger Doug and Ralph Herrick went out roaming the inexperienced hills, trying to find small recreation to complement the household supper. Having bagged a jackrabbit, the brothers returned dwelling and tossed the hare’s physique onto the ground of their store in preparation for skinning it. As a result of they’d not too long ago butchered a small deer within the store, a modest pair of antlers already rested on the ground. By a sheer coincidence that might change the boys’ lives eternally, the useless rabbit occurred to slip up in opposition to the deer’s horns in order to make it seem the jackrabbit sported the rack. There should then have been a protracted pause, throughout which the boys stared on the unintentional amalgam, questioning what to make of it. Then large brother Doug, in a second of inspiration, exclaimed, “Let’s mount that factor!” 


Postcards are among the many oldest and hottest objects of jackalope memorabilia. This classic card, circa late Nineteen Forties, got here from the studios of photographer Harold Sanborn. It was immensely widespread, with at the very least 17,000 copies revamped the lifetime of the damaging.

Courtesy of John Meissner, Sanborn Analysis Centre and Estes Park Archives. Photograph by Kyle Weerheim.

In line with Ralph, that was in 1932 — although different sources declare 1934, 1936, 1938, 1939, even 1940. If Ralph’s reminiscence was right, he and his brother Doug would have been solely about 10 and 12 years outdated, respectively, once they invented the horned rabbit mount. It will need to have appeared a modest accomplishment, particularly for boys who had maybe not but acquired certificates for finishing their mail-order taxidermy classes. When the brothers offered that now-legendary first antlered bunny for the princely sum of $10 to Roy Ball, who displayed it on the wall of the bar in his Resort LaBonte (pronounced “La-bon-tee”) in close by Douglas, the newly created hybrid animal will need to have appeared to them miraculous. Utilizing solely their creativeness, humorousness, and rudimentary expertise as novice taxidermists, the Herrick boys had created one thing new: a hybrid animal that might go on to change into essentially the most well-known, beloved and worthwhile taxidermy hoax on the earth. That humble Herrick homestead, on the market on the limitless, rolling Wyoming prairie, was the birthplace of the jackalope.

Through the Nineteen Eighties, northern California cartoonist R. L. Crabb created Junior Jackalope, a sly, politically progressive character who was the hero of the Junior Jackalope and Tales of the Jackalope comedian e book sequence.

Cowl of Tales of the Jackalope #4 (1986), Blackthorne Publishing. Courtesy of R. L. Crabb. Photograph by Kyle Weerheim.

By my tough estimation, there are at the very least 1 million jackalope mounts in existence, lots of which preserve watch over native bars, vacationer traps, junk retailers, greasy spoon diners and dimly lit pool halls. As soon as uncommon, the jackalope migrated from Wyoming all through the West after which throughout the nation. Antlered bunnies now adorn the partitions of watering holes from Los Angeles to Seattle, Dallas to New York. And whereas the horned rabbit is unalloyed Americana — a real artifact of this nation’s folks tradition — the legendary beast has additionally made its manner throughout the oceans and all over the world. What’s extra, the long-lasting jackalope mount is simply the tip of the iceberg of kitsch the Herrick brothers’ invention has impressed. This hoax bunny has spawned not solely an countless physique of comedian lore, but in addition a thriving cottage trade value hundreds of thousands — one cheesy T-shirt, key chain and postcard at a time. The Herricks’ hoax has lengthy since outgrown the present store and is now broadly celebrated in storytelling, literature, folklore, visible artwork, music, movie, TV, video video games — and lots extra, as I used to be reminded the opposite day after I noticed a whimsical jackalope tattoo gracing the shoulder of a younger girl hoisting a pint of hazy IPA at Nice Basin Brewery, my native pub in Reno, Nevada.

The jackalope is an oddball even amongst oddballs. Regardless of the animal’s legendary moniker—a portmanteau of jackrabbit and antelope — the jackalope is commonly created from the top of a cottontail reasonably than a jackrabbit, and mounts are not often fabricated utilizing the horns of a pronghorn antelope, the broader availability of deer antlers making them the popular alternative. To complicate issues, the jackrabbit (genus Lepus) is just not a rabbit however reasonably a hare, whereas the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is just not an antelope however as a substitute an artiodactyl ungulate indigenous to North America — the only survivor of a dozen implausible Antilocaprid species, which, earlier than the sweeping wave of Pleistocene extinctions broke over them, roamed the territory now inhabited by jackalopes. However whenever you’re inventing an animal, the sound and really feel of the title depend for greater than its taxonomic precision. “Cottonamuledeer” simply doesn’t have a lot of a hoop to it. 

Whereas the horned rabbit is unalloyed Americana — a real artifact of this nation’s folks tradition — the legendary beast has additionally made its manner throughout the oceans and all over the world. 

European Renaissance naturalists depicted Lepus cornutus, the horned hare, which they believed to be a definite species. Flemish manuscript illuminator Joris Hoefnagel illustrated this horned rabbit located between a standard rabbit (on the proper) and a rabbit patterned after Albrecht Dürer’s 1502 watercolor Younger Hare (on the left). Plate 47, Animalia Quadrupedia et Reptilia (Terra), circa 1575–1580.

Courtesy of the Nationwide Gallery of Artwork. Reward of Miss Lessing J. Rosenwald, accession quantity 1987.20.6.48.

MANY FANTASTIC AND CONTRADICTORY tales are instructed of the jackalope. To start with, varied sources cite the animal’s title as jackalope, jackelope, jackaloupe, jackalop, jack hare, jacka rabbit, saber-toothed jack, razor jack, bristled hare, deer hare, thistle hare, lion rabbit, antelabbit, deerbunny, stagbunny, sarabideer, boop-oop-o-doopdeer, whatizzitt, and warrior rabbit. At beginning, jackalopes are known as “bunnies,” except they’re known as “jackalopeenies” or “leverets.” Later in life they’re known as “calves,” or, in different tales, “spikes.” Grownup males are normally known as “jakes,” whereas grownup females are “does.” A bunch of jackalopes could also be known as a “band,” “pack,” “bounce,” “flagerdoot,” or, as Helga Bull would have it, “committee.” No two tales signify this info in fairly the identical manner, and there’s not even consensus about whether or not the plural of “jackalope” is “jackalope” (as with “deer”), “jackalopes” (as with “bears”), or jackalopei (as with “hippopotami”).

Among the many most historical of jackalope precursors is Al-Mi’raj, described by thirteenth-century Persian naturalist Abu Yahya Zakariya’ ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini in his geographical encyclopedia, ʿAjā’ib al-makhlūqāt wa gharā’ib al-mawjūdāt (Marvels of Issues Created and Miraculous Facets of Issues Current). Initially revealed circa 1280.

From the up to date manuscript within the Bavarian State Library, revealed 1750–70. Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

Tales point out that this uncommon animal resulted from a cross between a jackrabbit and a pronghorn. Or a hare and a mule deer. Or an antelope jackrabbit and a whitetail deer. Or a jackrabbit and a now-extinct pygmy deer, desert deer or Spanish deer. The preliminary cross-species mating might have been produced by two animals trapped collectively in a cave throughout a storm, although different accounts abound. One story claims that the rabbit’s odd horns are the product of a genetic mutation that occurred roughly 30 million years in the past. Jackalopes actually do have antlers (in some tales, true horns), although comparatively little is understood about them. Some say the jackalope is the one animal that sheds just one antler till it has totally grown a substitute, after which it sheds the opposite. This will likely even be why a jackalope, ever cautious, is claimed to enter its den strolling backwards with a view to use these horns to guard itself in opposition to predators.

“The lack of the enormous jackalope has had many optimistic results on the areas they as soon as roamed.”

How massive is a jackalope? That, too, depends upon who you ask. In his Discipline Information to the North American Jackalope, Andy Robbins has the assorted subspecies weighing in at anyplace from one to 10 kilos. In his weirdly exhaustive booklet Every thing You All the time Needed to Find out about Jackalope, Invoice Alexander claims the animal weighs as much as 60 kilos, “in regards to the dimension of a medium dog” (sic). Tales are sometimes instructed of a now-extinct Sabretooth Jack, which weighed as much as 150 kilos and was ferocious, particularly when it was separated from its committee and thus went rogue. The demise of this immense jackalope is variously attributed to the onerous winters of the Eighties, lack of habitat as a consequence of agricultural enlargement, and depletion of the mammoth jackalope’s fundamental prey, the American bison. In any case, the Douglas Chamber of Commerce informs us, “The lack of the enormous jackalope has had many optimistic results on the areas they as soon as roamed. The buffalo has begun a comeback, barbwire fences and windmills are actually secure, and girls have obtained the proper to vote.”

President Ronald Reagan displayed a buck-and-doe jackalope shoulder mount in his Rancho Del Cielo dwelling in Goleta, California. On this photograph, taken on November 25, 1987, Reagan tries to tug one over on Nationwide Safety Advisor Colin Powell, whose laughter reveals that he is aware of higher.

Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library, picture C43826-25.

IF THERE IS A GREAT deal of inconsistency within the illustration of the horned rabbit, that’s comprehensible given the rarity of the animal and the big selection of witnesses who’ve shared their accounts. Even fundamental details in regards to the hybrid bunny stay in dispute. For instance, it’s possible you’ll surprise how briskly a jackalope can run. Forty miles per hour appears to be about as little as any storyteller is prepared to go, and lots of sources land within the 50-60 mph vary. My favourite reply is that the jackalope runs 90 mph as a result of it’s a hybrid of the jackrabbit, which might do 30 mph, and the pronghorn, which might dash an astounding 60 mph. Thirty plus 60 equals 90. Simple arithmetic! However, some preserve that the animal is so adept at camouflage that it will probably render itself invisible and thus not often must make use of its velocity, nonetheless extraordinary that velocity is perhaps.

Nevertheless, there are particular details on which almost all storytellers agree. Chief amongst these is the truth that jackalopes mate solely throughout lightning storms. This odd breeding conduct not solely helps account for the animal’s rarity, but in addition provides a magical origin for the species. Plus, cheesy postcards depicting jackalopes rearing up on their hind legs and cavorting erotically amid shattering bolts of lightning are value each penny of the 75 cents they’ll set you again.

It is usually usually understood that jackalopes will be attracted by setting out a bowl of whiskey at evening. Some say a combination of whiskey and milk is more practical, and some jackalope hunters swear that the perfect bait is whiskey-soaked bologna. However there will be no query in regards to the jackalope’s fondness for whiskey — a trait universally acknowledged within the folklore surrounding the animal. Older lore holds that, as soon as inebriated, a jackalope believes it will probably catch bullets in its tooth, and is thus made the hunter’s prey. Most hunters agree it’s harmful to hunt jackalopes, and it’s mentioned that homesteaders as soon as wore a size of stovepipe on every leg to guard in opposition to assaults.

Seventeenth-century Flemish painters Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens collaborated on the beautiful portray The Virgin and Little one in a Portray surrounded by Fruit and Flowers, for which Brueghel painted the settings, garlands, and animals, whereas Rubens created the human and angelic figures. Notice the horned rabbit depicted within the foreground proper. Circa 1617–20. Oil portray with panel assist.

Picture courtesy of the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Stock no. P001418.

Arguably essentially the most important behavioral attribute of the jackalope is its celebrated potential to sing, and in addition to “throw” its voice in order to deceive predators (together with human hunters) — the one recognized instance of ventriloquism within the animal kingdom. Many cowboys and campers have instructed the story of sitting across the campfire at evening, crooning a ballad, solely to listen to the jackalope take part, typically in candy concord with the tune’s melody. Most accounts specify that the jackalope sings in treble, although a number of much less credible tale-tellers declare to have heard jackalopes belting out the bass half. Storytellers additionally agree that the jackalope has the exceptional present of imitating sounds, together with these of coyotes, owls, meadowlarks and even chainsaws. One skilled hunter swears the jackalope is able to imitating the sound of the hunter’s cellphone ringtone with a view to distract him. Most typical, although, are studies that the animal has the exceptional potential to make its voice sound as whether it is coming from elsewhere. This defensive tactic is used when the jackalope is being pursued by a hunter, by which case the animal will typically cry out, “There he goes, over there!” with a view to throw the hunter off his path. I’ll add that the jackalope’s use of human language as a misleading tactic offers the misinform those that argue that the animal solely mimics our language with out understanding its that means.

An grownup male cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus mearnsii) from Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, with growths brought on by an excessive case of Shope papillomavirus, from 1989. Specimen on deposit on the College of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, Lawrence, Kansas.

Courtesy of Heather A. York.

“Its existence, whereas inconceivable, is just not not possible, nevertheless it follows that the extinction of such a creature is likewise unprovable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable.”

It’s, after all, true that myriad questions in regards to the mysterious horned rabbit stay unanswered — questions on its social biology, predation, seasonal migration, distribution, inhabitants dynamics and the like. For instance, consultants will let you know that jackalopes have eager eyesight, acute listening to, a wonderful sense of odor and an uncanny potential to evade seize. However is it true, as Invoice Alexander claims, that the jackalope “may also learn minds, and a few consultants agree that they possess a sure ESP functionality”? Is Bruce Larkin right when he asserts, in his pamphlet 50 Information about Jackalopes, that jackalope saliva could also be used to create waterproof ink, or that jackalopes generally snore loudly, or that “most critical Yeti trackers want to make use of specifically educated jackalopes reasonably than bloodhounds”? Clearly, an excessive amount of additional discipline analysis is important earlier than we are able to develop an entire understanding of the elusive jackalope. 

Regardless of many lingering questions, the spectacular welter of particulars storytellers have supplied in regards to the horned rabbit makes it completely clear that the jackalope exists, even when its numbers have been severely depleted for the reason that nineteenth century, when monumental herds of jackalopes roamed the Nice Plains. Having researched the query for a few years, I vehemently disagree with those that preserve that the jackalope, although now a staple of American folklore, has been pushed to extinction. In Cenotaph of the Jackalope, Hermes Trismegistus “Hermester” Barrington helps us to suppose by this vexing query. “Its existence, whereas inconceivable, is just not not possible, nevertheless it follows that the extinction of such a creature is likewise unprovable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable.” This is identical impenetrable logic that has saved Bigfoot and Nessie alive for thus lengthy: They have to exist as a result of there is no such thing as a definitive proof that they don’t. And that kind of existence is the native province of tall-tale tellers, whose colourful yarns will preserve the horned rabbit alive simply so long as their imaginations maintain out.

A famous roadside attraction and undoubtedly the world’s most well-known emporium for jackalope kitsch, South Dakota’s Wall Drug sells jackalope T-shirts, key chains, postcards, shot glasses, and shoulder mounts by the dozen.

Courtesy of Sarah Hustead. Photograph by the writer.

Excerpted from On the Path of the Jackalope: How a Legend Captured the World’s Creativeness and Helped Us Treatment Most cancers. Copyright 2022, used with permission from Pegasus Books.

Michael P. Department is Basis Professor and a professor of literature and atmosphere on the College of Nevada, Reno. A humorist and author of place-based nonfiction in regards to the West, he’s the writer of ten books and greater than 300 essays and critiques. Study extra about his work.

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