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The History and Mythology Of The Jackalope

close up photography of a antelope
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In case you live in Wyoming, then the jackalope isn’t something new to you. However, you may not be really aware of its history and mythology. 

The History of The Jackalope

Two brothers, Douglas and Ralph Herrick were just two regular young men who liked to spend time with their family as well as hunting in the woods together. Born and raised in Wyoming, the two brothers had taken a taxidermy class through a mail order service and they really enjoyed it.

So, one day, when they were running late to dinner with family after a hunting day, they had the idea of the jackalope.

According to the story that is told up to these days, as soon as they returned home, they simply tossed a jackrabbit carcass up against the wall of their taxidermy shop. After all, they were hungry after a long day of hunting.

When they got to the store the next morning, they saw that the body of the animal has slid below a pair of deer antlers. So, when Douglas saw that, he got the idea of the jackalope.

After fashioning the deer antlers onto the jackrabbit carcass, the brothers were able to create the first jackalope which they later sold to a local hotel owner – Roy Ball. If you search for his name, it is natural that you see that he was the first one credited with trapping and discovering the first jackalope in 1829.

By displaying the jackalope head in the lobby of his LaBonte Hotel in Douglas, Wyoming, he started getting a lot more guests and it even became a focus for the tourism industry. 

The Mythology of The Jackalope

When Douglas and Ralph started creating new jackalopes for other businesses, they knew they had to come up with an interesting story. After all, no one had ever seen such a creature.

adorable european hare standing in field amidst dandelions
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So, to ensure the story was credible, they produced a 16th-century painting of a horned rabbit as well as they also referred to the fact that Buddha had mentioned a horned rabbit. As you can imagine, this didn’t really happen. What happened was that the painting was actually a representation of a rabbit that suffered from tumors and that Buddha referred to the horned rabbits just to ensure he didn’t believe these creatures existed.

The Legend Kept Spreading

As you can imagine, with all these stories, the legend of the jackalope kept growing which continually brought more and more tourists to Wyoming. 

While we know the jackalope was a creation of the Herrick brothers, the reality is that no one knows for sure if it wasn’t Roy Ball, the hotel owner who bought the first jackalope to the two brothers, who came up with myth part. After all, he had to come up with something to answer to his guests. 

Jackalopes Continue To Be Used Until Today

There’s no question that the jackalope is an iconic creature that has already attracted a lot of attention. So, it is natural that it is frequently used in books, television shows, movies, among other media. In fact, a puppet version of a jackalope was a recurring character on the show America’s Funniest People hosted by Dave Coulier. But this wasn’t the only case. We can also see the jackalope being used as a logo or name, including one featuring R. Carlos Nakai, the famous Native American flute player. 

In 2003, for example, Pixar featured a jackalope in the short animation Boundin. The jackalope gave helpful advice to a lamb who was feeling sad after being shorn. But they also made an appearance in video games such as Red Dead Redemption, Redneck Rampage, and even Guild Wars 2.

Photo by Mark Freeman on flickr.com