Imagine dropping your snack and suddenly out-dashes a Jackalope (a horned jackrabbit) who snatches it away. Well, that’s how Scooby-Doo and Shaggy felt when a Jackolope crossed their path (or did it?).
So in true Scooby-Doo fashion, are Jackalopes real?
Jackalopes aren’t real and aren’t a specific species of rabbit. The myth was based on jackrabbits and cottontails that suffered from a virus called Shope Papillomatosis. This disease causes wart-like carcinoma growths that harden on their heads or mouths, resulting in a horn-like appearance.
If the myth of the Jackalope has always fascinated you, and you’d like to learn more about this mythical creature’s origins, then this guide will provide you with all the facts.
What Is a Jackalope?
According to folklore in the American West, a Jackalope is a jackrabbit with the horns of an antelope.
The Jackalope was given a scientific name, Lepus Cornutus, in the 16th century, but this no longer applies as the Jackalope is a fictional animal.
This elusive creature is said to be very intelligent and aggressive (if you manage to catch or provoke them).
Self-proclaimed “Jackalope catchers”( a group of hunters who claim to have successfully ensnared jackalopes) advise that trying to catch a Jackalope can be a precarious business.
They need to wear stovepipes over their legs to prevent the Jackalope’s horns from tearing through the flesh of their legs (similar to a wild boar attack).
Besides being incredibly fast, a Jackalope is also rumored to be able to mimic human words and understand conversations. This is part of why they’re so hard to spot in the wild.
A Jackolope’s favorite pastime is to sit close to a campfire and serenade and frighten people with campfire songs they’ve learned.
Jackalopes are said to have one major weakness: their love of whiskey. A jackalope will drink whiskey until they’re intoxicated, and that’s the perfect time to catch one.
Did you know? Certain supermarkets in Wyoming sell female Jackolope milk for its aphrodisiac properties. Obviously, its authenticity is doubted by many, but it can still be a nice trinket for your travel collection.
Are Jackalopes Real?
The short answer? Jackalopes are not real. However, there are people today who believe the Jackalope is, in fact, a real animal.
There are heated debates over whether the Jackalope is a myth or fact.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the facts that disprove the Jackalope myth:
The Herrick Brothers
In 1932, two brothers, Douglas and Ralph Herrick, from Douglas, a little town in Wyoming, went on a hunting trip. They put their hunting trophies on the ground, and the jackrabbit ended up lying close to a pair of antelope horns.
Douglas insisted they taxidermy the jackrabbit and mount it on the wall with the deer antlers attached. Their taxidermied Jackalopes took off, and soon they had several orders for these rabbits with antlers.
Eventually, Ralph Herrick came clean and admitted that they had created the Jackalope through taxidermy. Regardless, people still bought the mounted Jackalopes and souvenirs. The town even erected an 8-foot-tall statue of the famous Jackalope.
In 2001, the town made a legislative attempt to name the Jackalope as the State’s official mythical creature. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful.
Did you know? The first taxidermied Jackalope was sold to Roy Ball for $10. ($29.98 today) Sadly, it was stolen in 1977.
To hunt a Jackalope, you need a hunting permit, which the Douglas Chamber of Commerce issues. The permit is only valid between midnight and 2 a.m. on June 31. The catch is there is no June 31.
The permit also has some strict rules, such as the hunter’s IQ can’t be over 72. If hunters try to find a Jackalope and come up empty-handed, they’re told it’s the Jackolope horn shedding season.
That’s why they’ll only see jackrabbits out and about.
Origin of the Jackalope Myth
The fable of the Jackalope has been passed down in the American West since the 1930s, and today some people still claim to have seen this mythical (and elusive) creature. So, where exactly did this myth originate?
Let’s take a closer look at the origin stories of the Jackalope myth:
Kauyumari, the Blue Deer
One of the oldest stories about a horned rabbit comes from North American folklore and Huichol mythology. The myth tells how Kauyumari (an important deity) received his horns as a gift from his friend, the horned rabbit.
Legend has it that the horned rabbit could not cross the river with his heavy horns, so he decided to give them to Kauyumari.
John Ray, a famous British Naturalist, claimed to have spotted a horned hare in 1673. He, however, believed that the hippopotamus was more of a myth than the Jackalope.
Is There a Real Rabbit with Horns?
Jackalopes don’t exist, but there is some truth to the myth of these horned creatures. Scientists and researchers believe that people have mistaken sick jackrabbits with the folklore surrounding Jackalopes.
In rare cases, cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits can catch a virus known as Shope Papillomavirus. The virus is known as HPV (Human Papillomavirus).
When humans contract it, it can cause cancerous tumors in various body parts, like the mouth or throat.
This awful virus causes challenging tumors to sprout from the rabbit’s heads. This strange deformity has been mistaken for antlers for centuries.
Voila, a legend is born (or has it really?). Sadly, the horn-like growths can block the rabbits’ mouths, which causes them to starve to death.
My Last Bunny Thoughts
Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Yeti are some of the greatest myths that the world has seen (or not seen, depending on what you believe). The legend of the Jackalope is by far the most famous and treasured hoax in the American West.
The Herrick brothers certainly didn’t realize just what an impact their Jackalope taxidermy would have on the world. Until 2003, the family was still selling mounted Jackalopes to eager tourists and die-hard fans.
The truth is this tall tale about whiskey-loving, campfire-yodeling rabbits have benefited the human race medically. By studying rabbits afflicted with Shope Papillomavirus, researchers could link some cancers’ development to virus infection.