Column: Legends, Lore, Superstitions, and More
The stories of jackalopes originate in the west of the United States from sightings by cowboys.
A jackalope is a rabbit that appears to have antlers like a deer. These rabbits are said to be able to run up to the speed of ninety miles per hour. Some stories of jackalopes claim they can make humans noises and even mimic cowboys.
Jackalopes are commonly sighted in Wyoming, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Colorado. Jackalopes were also spotted in Europe. In Germany, a similar creature by the name of wolpertinger was documented in the 1500s.
Just like the unicorn, jackalopes are not real. Cowboys thought they were seeing a hare with antlers, but they actually weren’t. These so-called jackalopes were actually regular rabbits. These rabbits looked as if they had horns because of a virus called the Shope papilloma virus. Rabbits with this virus grew tumors on the top of their heads that hardened and resembled antlers.
The popularization of jackalopes was because of taxidermist Douglas Herrick who lived in Douglas, Wyoming. Herrick paired deer antlers with a rabbit and made taxidermy jackalope mounts and sold them. He got the idea after a hunting trip with his brother. His brother, Ralph, threw a jackrabbit they had killed onto the floor of his shop and it landed next to a deer’s antlers. These mounts were so popular that Douglas, Wyoming is now called the jackalope capital of the world.
Even though the jackalopes of the American west weren’t actually rabbits with horns, people loved them and were fascinated with them.