The Jackalope: America’s own portmanteau cryptid. Except I didn’t think anyone actually believed these things were out there for real.
The modern beginnings of the creature’s popularity goes back to the 1930s in Wyoming where a hunter used his taxidermy skills to attach antelope horns onto a jackrabbit. And from there, a pocket industry began selling the things to bars, curio shops, etc. However, the legend of the beastie goes much further back to legends shared around campfires in the old west, the indigenous Hulchoi people of Mexico, and even the alpine and Scandinavian areas of Europe. How did this stories of this silly thing get started? Was there an actual Jackalope at some point that the legends stemmed from?
Basically, they’re rabbits with HPV (human papillomavirus). So, no, this isn’t a crusty dudes with STDs having sex with bunnies story (thank god), as the virus appears in animals as well. Only instead of creating cancerous tumors in the cervix, like with humans, in rabbits the papillomavirus manifests as manifests as horns. Basically, these ‘jackalopes’ seen were deeply diseased creatures, usually reaching the end of their existence. The virus horns don’t just manifest on the head, sometimes blocking their mouths causing them to starve.
Of course, this won’t stop our fascination with them. Here in Austin, the home of The Museum of the Weird, we have The Jackalope Bar (which presumably has lots of HOPPY beers…*ducks*), they appeared in the popular video game Red Dead Redemption, have an ice hockey team (the Odessa Jackalopes), were the main character in a Pixar short animated film, and, well jeez, just about everywhere.
Learning their origin story now takes away a good deal of cute factor, to be sure. Sorry to rain on your parade. Next thing you know, they’ll tell us Bigfoot’s giant feet are actually herpes growths. PLEASE don’t tell us that.