My first experiences with this creature were a photo on a postcard from my grandfather when he was traveling across the United States, and in a scene from Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders. Like many animals of legend, whether these creatures are real or mythical is up for debate. I like to think they’re real, but I guess I’ll have to visit the West to truly know. There is a species of antelope jackrabbit, though, so I suppose there’s some true to the myth.
WHAT IS IT?
It’s a bunny with antlers. Well, sort of. The name is a portmanteau of jackrabbit and antelope, even though the animals they are a cross of are actually a hare and a pronghorn. But close enough, right? According to Legends of America, they can mimic human voices, and would use their antlers to attack, earning them the nickname “warrior rabbit.” Sounds a bit like a certain vicious rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Without the horns.
I bet Douglas Herrick of Douglas, Wyoming would like to believe himself the creator of this species. As the story goes, in 1932 he hunted a rabbit one day and tossed it next to a pair of deer antlers, and thus the jackalope was born. He and his brother studied taxidermy, so they decided to make some jackalope specimens for a profit and sold them to hotels and other people who wanted the mythical beast to display.
But horned hares have been depicted as far back as even the 13th century when a Persian work showed one having a single horn on its head; a unicorn jackalope. There’s also the Bavarian wolpertinger of Medieval and Renaissance Folklore. And the Huichol oral legend of how the deer gets its horns from the horned rabbit. And then there’s the Swedish Skvader, which is a combination of a rabbit and a grouse. But usually it seems to be horned rabbits. Why? And how is it seen in so many cultures?
The theory behind the jackalope, I’m sad to say, is a rational one. It is believed that the sightings of “horned rabbits” are actually rabbits suffering from Shope papilloma virus, which causes horn-like masses to harden, usually near their heads, thus making them look horned.
As I mentioned, my first sighting of a jackalope in pop culture was Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders. Shaggy and Scooby catch a quick glimpse of the jackalope before it runs away. There’s also a movie called The Jackalope in which a boy learns of a mysterious creature.
You could go the Monty Python route and have your hybrid inflict flesh wounds on its victims. Would it attack because it’s guarding something? Or is it just a bloodthirsty killer?
Or you could save illegally bred jackalope from jackalope mills, have it be a comment on the real life puppy mills that some unfortunate dogs come from.
Your main character is an adventurer. Maybe he wants to impress a girl. Maybe he caught a glimpse of one of these horned bunnies when he was a kid and wanted to prove to himself and everyone else that they’re real. Either way, he needs to find and collect evidence of a jackalope living in Wyoming before his reputation is completely ruined.
We don’t have enough jackalope stories, so have fun writing!