Jackalope: The Truth Behind The World’s Scariest Rabbit


The jackalope, just like its hairy cousin
Bigfoot, has become something of an American institution. Your local farmer might claim to have spotted
jackalopes in his fields from time to time. Your classmate probably warned you that jackalopes
are vicious if provoked. Here’s the truth about jackalopes. Believe it or not, the widespread belief in
hares with horns goes back to the days before the USA was the USA. The first known document showing something
like a jackalope is a Persian geographic dictionary from the 1200s depicted a rabbit with a single,
unicorn-esque spike on its head. The the rather fearsome, fanged Bavarian “Wolpertinger”
painting dates to 1509, and in later centuries, horned rabbits began appearing in all sorts
of European tomes. And then there’s the legends from Central
America. According to People of the Peyote: Huichol
Indian History, Religion, and Survival, one of the iconic heroes of ancient Huichol culture
was Kauyumari, a deity sometimes called the Blue Deer, who was said to have first received
his antlers as a gift from his friend, the rabbit. Those are legends, but for centuries people
believed horned rabbits were real. They even had a scientific name: Lepus cornutus. In 1673, for instance, legendary British naturalist
John Ray described seeing both “the head of a horned hare” and also “the horns of a hare”
among an assortment of other, regular animal body part specimens. By the end of the 1700’s, though, scientists
had decided that jackalopes weren’t, in fact real. “Zoinks! A jackalope?! I thought those things were fake!” So then where does the American jackalope
come from? It’s pretty simple: two dudes made one as
a joke. According to the Los Angeles Times, Wyoming
brothers Douglas and Ralph Herrick returned from a hunting trip with a jackrabbit carcass. It ended up next to a set of deer antlers
in their taxidermy studio. Douglas immediately hit on the idea of combining
the two, and in 1934, they sold their first mounted jackalope head to a hotel in the town
of Douglas, Wyoming, for ten bucks. It was a hit, and after word quickly spread
about the jackalope, the brothers launched a new business making and selling jackalopes. Once jackalope heads began sprouting up around
Douglas, tall tales about jackalopes quickly followed, and continue to this day. For instance, cowboys in the Wild West supposedly
gathered around the fire at night, sang old songs, and often heard the jackalopes singing
back to them in astonishingly human voices. Oh yeah. Snake oil salesmen claimed that the milk of
a jackalope was a potent aphrodisiac – horny rabbit, get it? – while other hoaxsters said
that the best way to catch one of these beasties was to use whiskey as bait because the rabbits
loved getting drunk on it. Naturally, salesmen often told their customers
to avoid the so-called “warrior rabbit” in the wild, since jackalopes were very aggressive
when provoked. And according to the Billings Gazette, some
bizarre jackalope stories are even real, such as an instance where British authorities confiscated
a jackalope head found in an American woman’s luggage because it was presumed to belong
to a protected species. The fact that anybody still believes in jackalopes
in the present day is a testament to how the town of Douglas, Wyoming has spent almost
a century spreading one of the USA’s most lucrative hoaxes, mostly by marketing the
fabled beast like crazy. The self-proclaimed jackalope capital of the
world, Douglas boasts the world’s largest jackalope sculptures, which is a very specific
distinction. The Douglas Chamber of Commerce also offers
tourists official jackalope hunting licenses, though the specified hunting season lasts
just a single day each year. The state has gotten into it too. The very name jackalope – which, if you hadn’t
noticed, is a very on-the-nose portmanteau of jackrabbit and antelope – was trademarked
by the state of Wyoming in 1965. And in 1985, Wyoming governor Ed Herschler
officially designated Wyoming as the jackalope’s stomping grounds. There’s also been a long battle in the Wyoming
state legislature to ratify the jackalope as the state’s “official mythical critter,”
but while that seems harmless enough, this is politics, which is why the bill has been
defeated several times since 2005. But hey, at least the Wyoming state lottery
adopted a jackalope mascot named YoLo, so that’s… something? Are jackalopes real? In a manner of speaking … yes, actually. Wait, hold onto your horns. Bizarrely enough, there truly are rabbits
out there who have hornlike growths sprouting from their heads, and it’s quite possible
that these unusual bunnies inspired some of the myths. The sad news, though, is that these growths
aren’t antlers, true horns, or anything nice or fun or fantastical like that: They’re tumors,
which are the result of the cancer-causing Shope papillomavirus. Sound familiar? That’s because when this virus infects humans,
it’s called HPV. In humans, HPV causes cancerous tumors to
appear in the cervix, but when it hits rabbits, the tumors manifest as hard growths from the
skull. The disease eventually kills them, so these
horns are not harmless appendages but a terrible progression of their illness. Though most people haven’t heard of this,
the scientific community has known about it for years thanks to researchers from Rockefeller
University. In the 1930s, scientist Richard Shope heard
about jackalopes on a hunting trip, and decided to use science to prove they were real. After having a friend catch a real horned
rabbit, Shope experimented on other live rabbits, eventually proving that the horns were tumors
caused by cancer. It was gruesome work, but there is sort of
a happy ending: colleague Francis Peyton Rous used that research to help prove his theory
that cancer can be caused by viruses, work which earned him the Nobel Prize for Medicine
in 1966. Thank you, jackalopes! Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
stuff are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

31 thoughts on “Jackalope: The Truth Behind The World’s Scariest Rabbit

  1. Back in the 1970s when I lived in Wyoming the old-timers told me about Jackalope I was in my very early 20s and I believe dthem ha ha Ha

  2. Man made, go figure. And we still wonder what is wrong with our species. We are definitely the stupidest animal in existence.

  3. Actually jackalopes are real. The neighbor had one stuffed. There is a fungal growth that wild rabbits can contract that causes a horn like growth to sprout from their heads, which looks just like horns sometimes.

    'The Shope papilloma virus (SPV), also known as cottontail rabbit papilloma virus (CRPV) or Kappapapillomavirus 2, is a papillomavirus which infects certain leporids, causing keratinous carcinomas resembling horns, typically on or near the animal's head.'

  4. In a nutshell, US authorities (not including common men but large business owners too) can do anything and everything for making money, fooling people around is the most humane one.

  5. I have never heard of a Jackalope until I traveled to Texas for work back in 1990. They were everywhere in Dallas and Fortworth. Also, I took a ton of pictures. Great story!

  6. I've never heard of these until today… sounds like something that can be in an A24 horror film if its not a cancer thing and really a Jackalope cause I will not poke fun at cancer.

  7. Congratulations! No doubt there are other channels that would cobble up a bunch of "facts" to prove the beast is real. While not widely known, the city of Rhinelander, in northern Wisconsin, has a "mascot" called the "Hodag." It was originally part of the tall tales of the "Timber Beasts," who harvested timber for logging companies. The beast looked like a furred dragon, with lots of big, sharp teeth, horns on its head resembling those of a cow, and spines down its back and tail like a stegosaurus. Early in the 20th century a local promoter faked up a Hodag using a wood and wire skeleton, a black cowhide, and various teeth, claws and horns. Together with several accomplices, a camera man, and a young boy, they faked up a story about the boy being attacked and the critter killed–which no one really believed, especially after its history was published, including the fact that it fed almost exclusively on white bulldogs!

  8. Your video is very interesting, however you should correct the information about the Huichol, whom don’t live in Central America but on Durango and Nayarit which are Northern states of Mexico.

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