Mysteries, Oddities, and Everything Strange: Jackalope


Bridget Vaughan, Staff Writer

Jackalope: A Hybrid of Hunting Legend

Rabbits are fun little creatures, aren’t they? With bushy tails, big ears, and a cute face, rabbits are always a joy to see hopping around the neighborhood. But many people have been forced to do a double take on these fuzzy little bundles of fur after they witnessed strange horns protruding from their face. This such creature is known as the jackalope, with the body of a jackrabbit and the horns of an antelope. But what exactly is a jackalope? Is it just a staple of taxidermied creatures, or is it actually a real animal wandering the barren landscape of Wyoming and the American West?

The jackalope was originally created by Douglas Herrick and his brother in the 1930s, who allegedly took deer antlers and affixed them to a jackrabbit’s head on a plaque. The creature then became popularized, and many more were eager to get their hands on such a decoration. Countless jackalopes were sold as decorations or souvenirs for tourists. Various postcards display art of the creature, and there are poems, television shows, and video games containing the strange creature. Lunchables frequently uses the jackalope in their commercials, and there was even a bid by Wyoming Legislature to cement the jackalope as the official mythical creature of the state, as the Jersey Devil is to New Jersey.

Despite the jackalope confirmed to be a creature completely made up, many still insist that the jackalope really does exist. Most of these sightings were hosted in the deserts of the American west. So-called jackalope witnesses claimed the hybrid rabbit could run up to speeds of 90 miles per hour and attack violently. The first jackalope encounter was reported by John Colter, the first white man to step into Wyoming. There is not much information about this encounter, but it became one of many. Sightings are frequently reported in state parks across the west of the United States, a popular tale among many Washington park-goers. The states with the largest number of supposed jackalope sightings are Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. Many others believe the jackalope to have once existed, but is now extinct. 

Despite this severe lack of evidence supporting the existence of the jackalope, pop culture has taken the tale of this creature on a wild ride. Mounted jackalope heads can be found practically everywhere, including diners, souvenir shops, or hunting grounds. Former President Ronald Reagan even had one such taxidermied head in his possession, obtained in South Dakota. The town of Douglas, Wyoming is the center of jackalope culture, with giant statues of the critter scattered across the city’s downtown. The entrance to the town even boasts a 13-foot statue to welcome guests to the town off its exit on Interstate 25. There even exists a jackalope with a mountable saddle in Mount Rushmore County, South Dakota. Not interested in statues? Well, the Jackalope Days Festival in Douglas is just the solution. Held in June, the festival boasts live entertainment, vendors, and of course, a spotlight on the mythical horned jackrabbit itself. 

Although the jackrabbit is not as much of a debatable topic as many might think, it still has its believers. And even if it truly is just a made up creature by a couple of bored brothers, it has made its mark on urban legends and American culture through its charm and intrigue. So that rabbit hopping across a field of grass probably won’t be sprouting antlers anytime soon. Or will it?