bitter news for all true Texans-the storied jackalope is not indigenous
to the Lone Star state.
Surely just about anyone with even a casual awareness of Texas popular
culture will remember having seen gag post cards of a creature with
all outward appearances of being a jackrabbit except for the antlers
growing out of its head. And in gift shops and tourist traps, mounted
specimens of ferocious-faced furry jackalopes have delighted souvenir
hunters (and the occasional game hunter in search of one more trophy)
Imagine the shock experienced by a Texan innocently visiting the
Pioneer Museum in Douglas, WY who discovered that the jackalope
originated in that small western town, not West
"This is crushing," a recent visitor (OK, it was me) said after
taking in an exhibit dedicated to Douglas' long-eared claim to fame.
"I've always thought the jackalope was invented in Texas."
The curator, eating a takeout salad at her desk, looked up from
her lunch with barely concealed disdain.
"We hear that from most of our Texas visitors," she said as she
continued to munch on her rabbit food.
The sad truth is, the jackalope is as much a part of Wyoming's taxonomy
as the American bison, grizzly bear, elk or moose.
story of the jackalope goes back to the Great Depression, when millions
of Americans struggled to earn a living for their families. Brothers
Ralph and Douglas Herrick were taxidermists, but mounted game animals
are not a necessity of life when people across the nation are standing
in soup lines. During hard times, taxidermy customers can be as
scarce as jackalopes.
Clearly a fellow
with a sense of humor, it occurred to Doug Herrick that if he affixed
small deer antlers to a stuffed jackrabbit (which actually is a
hare, not a rabbit) tourists probably would be willing to buy them.
Jackrabbits and antelope being plentiful in wide-open Wyoming, he
decided to call his hybrid creature the jackalope.
Of course, anyone who knows their North American wildlife understands
that antelope horns are in no way similar to deer antlers. Further,
they know that jackalopes are not real animals. On the other hand,
its conceivable that some naive visitors might actually buy the
jackalope story. If not the story, at least a mounted jackalope.
Herrick sold his first jackalope mount for $10 to Roy Ball who added
it to the decor of Douglas' old La Bonte Hotel. Back then, 10 bucks
was a lot of money when a newspaper and a cup of coffee cost only
Jackalopes multiplied like, well, jackrabbits and before long, the
mythical creature had hopped straight into American folklore. The
La Bonte Hotel sold the two brothers' taxidermy work and soon the
Herricks were shipping their creations all over the West, including
How the jackalope became associated
with Texas in the minds of many is open to speculation, but as even
a cursory google search shows, it did. It may trace to a popular
post card that dates to the 1930s. That classic, an example of what
postcard collectors call a real photo card, is a tricked up image
of a Texas cowboy skinning a deer-sized jackrabbit hanging from
a tree. It fits perfectly with the old gag that everything's bigger
in Texas, though it's as phony as a jackalope.
back in wide-open Wyoming, as the years went by it occurred to the
local chamber of commerce that the jackalope could benefit Douglas'
aspirations as a tourist destination as well as the bank account
of individual sellers. Founded in the mid-1880s on the banks of
the North Platte River when the Wyoming Central Railway made it
a train stop, the town now bills itself as the Jackalope City. To
prove the point, the community put up an eight-foot jackalope statue
outside the community center in what is now called Jackalope Square.
The Wyoming legislature has even considered making the jackalope
the official state mythical creature, but lawmakers have withheld
the honor so far. Official or not, every June the town holds a Jackalope
Finding further fun in jackalopes, some other entrepreneur created
a jackalope hunting license. For a modest fee, a licensee is entitled
to lawfully harvest one jackalope in Converse County, WY. However,
to qualify for a jackalope license, a person must possess an IQ
over 50 but below 72. So as to protect the jackalope population
from depletion, hunters can only take them during daylight hours
on June 31. (Get it? June has only 30 days.)