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The jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore (a so-called "fearsome critter") described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns or deer antlers and sometimes a pheasant's tail (and often hind legs). The word "jackalope" is a portmanteau of "jackrabbit" and "antelope".
The story of the jackalope was popularised in Wyoming in the 1930s after a local hunter used taxidermy skills to graft deer antlers onto a jackrabbit carcass, selling the creature to a local hotel. It is possible that the tales of jackalopes were inspired by sightings of rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus, which causes the growth of horn- and antler-like tumors in various places on the rabbit's head and body. The concept of an animal hybrid occurs in many cultures, such as the griffin and the chimera, and horned hares were described in medieval and early Renaissance texts.
The jackalope has led to many outlandish (and largely tongue-in-cheek) claims as to the creature's habits. It is given the pseudo-taxonomic descriptor Lepus temperamentalus. It is said to be a hybrid of the pygmy-deer and a species of "killer rabbit". Reportedly, jackalopes are extremely shy unless approached. Legend also has it that female jackalopes can be milked - as they sleep belly up - and that the milk can be used for a variety of medicinal purposes. One of the few ways a Jackalope can be caught is by leaving out a bottle of whiskey, as it is the jackalope's sustenance of choice. It has also been said that the jackalope can convincingly imitate any sound, including the human voice. It uses this ability to elude pursuers, chiefly by using phrases such as "There he goes! That way!" During days of the Old West, when cowboys gathered by the campfires singing at night, jackalopes could often be heard mimicking their voices. Legend has it that they are dangerous if approached. It has also been said that jackalopes will only breed during winter electrical storms, explaining their rarity.
The New York Times attributes the story's origin to a 1932 hunting outing involving Douglas Herrick (1920–2003) of Douglas, Wyoming. Herrick and his brother had studied taxidermy by mail order as teenagers, and when the brothers returned from a hunting trip for jackrabbits, Herrick tossed a carcass into the taxidermy store, where it came to rest beside a pair of deer antlers. The accidental combination of animal forms sparked Herrick's idea for a jackalope. The first jackalope the brothers put together was sold for $10 to Roy Ball, who displayed it in Douglas' La Bonte Hotel. The mounted head was stolen in 1977. The jackalope became a popular local story, and Douglas Chamber of Commerce has issued thousands of Jackalope Hunting Licenses to tourists. The tags are good for hunting only during official Jackalope season, which occurs for only one day: June 31 (a nonexistent date as June has 30 days), from midnight to 2 AM. The hunter may not have an IQ greater than 72. In Herrick's home town of Douglas there is a statue of a jackalope, and the town celebrates Jackalope Day every year.
Mythological references to a horned rabbit creature can be found in the Huichol legends. The Huichol oral tradition has passed down tales of the sharing of horns between the deer and the horned rabbit. This folklore may originate in sightings of rabbits affected by the papilloma viral infection, which was reported in the Western United States and Mexico from the 1880s - 1930's. The rabbit and deer have also been paired up as far back as the Mesoamerican period of the Aztecs as twins, brothers, even the sun and moon.
Stories about similar hybrid rabbits exist in alpine and Scandinavian regions of Europe. Such creatures include the Wolpertinger (Bayern, Germany), the Blutschink (Tirol, Austria), the Dahu (Switzerland, France), the Dilldapp (some specific regions), the Elwetritsch (Pfalz, Germany), the Hanghuhn (Thüringen, Germany), the Raurakl (Schwarzau im Gebirge, Austria), the Rasselbock (Thüringen and Sachsen, Germany) and the Skvader (Medelpad in northern Sweden).
In 2005, the state legislature of Wyoming considered a bill to make the jackalope the state's official mythological creature. It passed the house by a 45-12 margin, but the session ended before the senate could take up the bill, and so it died. In 2013, following the death of the bill's sponsor, Dave Edwards, the state legislature reintroduced the bill. It again passed the House but died in the rules committee of the senate.
Since Herrick and his brother began selling manipulated taxidermy heads in the 1930s, such trophies can be found in many bars and homes across the United States. Herrick's postcards of the jackalope also increased the myth's popularity. Ronald Reagan was given a rabbit head with antlers by South Dakotan senator James Abdnor in 1986.
Jackalope have also appeared in video games. In Red Dead Redemption, the player is able to hunt and skin jackalope as an in-game challenge. In Redneck Rampage, jackalope are an aggressive enemy encountered early on in the game. Jackalopes play part in an in game event and is also one of the rarest purchasable mini pet in Guild Wars 2.
"The Jackalope" or "Jack Ching Bada Bing" was a recurring character in a series of sketches on the American TV show America's Funniest People (1990-1994), where he would play pranks on his nemesis, in a similar style to a Bugs Bunny Cartoon. In the animated television series Gravity Falls, jackalopes occasionally appear in the opening sequence and photos.
Beginning in 1997, the Central Hockey League included a team called the Odessa Jackalopes; a team of that name has more recently been a member of the South Division of the North American Hockey League
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