“Home, home on the strange, where the deer and the jackalope play. Where seldom is feared anything that seems weird, and they are not them anyway!”
“What’s your favorite animal?” the grandson queried. Kids often make such inquires of favorites and likes, as ways of learning conversation. Which should be encouraged. Oft it’s a matter of bait and switch, because asking of yours is an opening venue to discussing theirs.
So, I switched. And damn near disowned him when he said BEARS! WTF? Your favorite animal is the one animal your grandfather has a severe phobia of? A mischievous grin accompanied by a re-inquiry of his query.
“Fine, mine’s the jackalope!” I replied. With quirked brow and grin of my own, to his protesting confusion. “No, I meant a “REAL” animal… jackalopes aren’t real…are they?”
“Well,” I replied sagely, “for the jackalope reality is relative and since were relatives that makes it real.” Yes, encourage engaging conversation, befuddle whenever possible.
The same response and befuddlement occurs when anyone opens a conversation about “spirit animals”. The jackalope? Yes! That’s not a real animal…is it? Your “spirit animal” obviously must be a real animal! Well either it is, and it is. Or it’s not, and I don’t believe in spirit animals. Or maybe, my entire life seems like such an imaginary work of fiction that the jackalope is the perfect spirit animal?
So… what the hell is a jackalope? The word jackalope is a portmanteau of jackrabbit and antelope, so basically, it’s a jackrabbit with antelope (or deer) horns. The jackalope is classified as a cryptid — an animal that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist. So, does it exist?
Well, in Douglas, Wyoming (the official home of the jackalope) at the Chamber of Commerce or local Wall Drug one can purchase an official jackalope hunting license for $1.49. This allows you to hunt and bag one jackalope throughout the entire jackalope hunting season. Which is on June 31st from midnight to 2 a.m.
To hunt the elusive jackalope you’ll need rope for a snare, a bottle of rye whiskey and shot glass for bait, and a cooler of beer. Rumor has it that the more beer you consume the more likely you are to see a jackalope. If your hunting endeavor leads to a hungover failure, fear not. A taxidermied jackalope can be procured at many a shop in downtown Douglas, or the internet.
But…does it exist? You can buy a license and hunt it. Does that not qualify it for existence status? Then again you can hunt snipes and bigfoot, too, so…
Descriptions of horned hares appearing in Bavarian folklore and early scientific texts date back to medieval and early Renaissance. Stories and illustrations of horned rabbits as real animals last appeared in scientific books in the late 1700s. After which the idea of a horned hare as a distinct species was mostly rejected.
Most of these “horned hares” were likely victims of the papillomavirus, a cancer-causing strain that, in rabbits, manifests as hard, keratinized horns. If these tumors develop near the mouth, they can interfere with the host’s ability to eat, eventually causing starvation. This is a tragic end for any bunny, but amazingly has no bearing on the jackalope and its existence.
So where did it come from and… once again… does it exist?
The jackalope was born in a Frankenstein fashion circa 1932. Upon returning from a hunting trip with his brother, Douglas Herrick (1920–2003) tossed a jackrabbit carcass onto the floor of the family’s taxidermy shop. The rabbit’s body slid across the floor, lining up perfectly with the horns from a buck deer. On a whim young Douglas said, “Let’s mount it that way.” And using their taxidermy skills they did, then sold the first of many jackalopes to come to Roy Ball for $10. Ball displayed it in Douglas’ La Bonte Hotel. From there the mythos of this man-made cryptid began and grew putting Douglas, Wyoming, on the map.
So, to answer the original and oft repeated question, does the jackalope exist? Well, I suppose that comes down to faith in the unknown and how many beers are left in the cooler come sunrise.
Congratulations on keeping resolution #4.
I welcome almost all questions, comments via FOCUS, or E-mail me at [email protected]. Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused! See ya.