The jackalope became a topic of discussion and much laughter last night. Supposedly a jackalope is a horned or antlered jack rabbit. (More)

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The first jackalope was a taxidermy joke perpetrated by two brothers, the Herricks of Douglas, Wyoming in 1923. A rabbit carcass was tosssed into a pile and landed near some deer antlers. Through the magic of taxidermy, the jackalope was born. The first one sold in 1932 for $10.

The jackalope became a popular local attraction in Douglas, where the Chamber of Commerce issues Jackalope Hunting Licenses to tourists. The tags are good for hunting during official jackalope season, which occurs for only one day: June 31 (a nonexistent date as June has 30 days), from midnight to 2 a.m. The hunter must have an IQ greater than 50 but not over 72. Thousands of “licenses” have been issued. In Herrick’s home town of Douglas, there is an 8-foot (2.4 m) statue of a jackalope, and the town hosts an annual Jackalope Days Celebration in early June.

I can’t remember how the discussion last night got to jackalopes. My oldest son, his wife, myself and their next door neighbor somehow landed on the topic. My son was sure they were a real animal. His wife and his friend howled and told him no, there was no such creature.

My son whipped out his phone and googled jackalope. His response, “You know you’re wrong when the first six google entries start with “mythical animal.”

The jackalope is subject to many outlandish and largely tongue-in-cheek claims embedded in tall tales about its habits. Jackalopes are said to be so dangerous that hunters are advised to wear stovepipes on their legs to keep from being gored. Stores in Douglas sell jackalope milk, but the New York Times questions its authenticity on grounds that milking a jackalope is known to be fraught with risk. One of the ways to catch a jackalope is to entice it with whiskey, the jackalope’s beverage of choice.

The jackalope can imitate the human voice, according to legend. During the days of the Old West, when cowboys gathered by the campfires singing at night, jackalopes could be heard mimicking their voices or singing along, usually as a tenor. It is said that jackalopes, the rare Lepus antilocapra, only breed during lightning flashes and that their antlers make the act difficult despite the hare’s reputation for fertility.

My son’s defense was that he was just ahead of the curve on fake news and perhaps instead of calling it fake news, we should just say, “Here come the jackalopes.”


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