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Friday, October 23, 2015

Rabbits with Antlers! And Rabbits with Wings! Are They the Real Things?

On April 29, 2014 I had a post on my other blog Cryptozoology 101 about Jackalopes. Here's part of what I said about the antlered rabbits:

"A jackalope is a mythical animal from American folklore. The jackalope story was popularized in the 1930s in Wyoming after a hunter put deer antlers on a rabbit and sold it to a hotel. Many other fake jackalopes have been made since then, and I have seen one in a restaurant."

Today, I will expand more on the jackalope in this post here on Tyler's Cryptozoo, as well as another weird rabbit (this one with wings) called the skvader.

Jackalope stature


Jackalope postcard from the 1968 Dexter Press,
West Nyack, New York

The name "jackalope" is derived from the words "jackrabbit" and "antelope."  According to Alex Boese on the Museum of Hoaxes site, the jacaklope is:

" antlered species of rabbit unfourtunately rumored to exist, though occassional sightings of this rare creature continue to occur, suggesting that pockets of jackalope populations continue to persist in its native home, the American West.
" The jackalope is an aggressive species, willing to use its antlers to fight. Thus, it is sometimes called the 'warrior rabbit.'"
The post on the jackalope on Museum of Hoaxes continues, describing its ability to mimic human sounds:

" Jackalopes possess an uncanny ability to mimic human sounds. In the old West, when cowboys would gather by their campfires to sing at night, jackalopes would frequently be heard singing back, mimicking the voices of the cowboys. Jackalopes become especially vocal before thunderstorms, perhaps because they mate only when lightning flashes (or so it is theorized.)"
The jackalope is quite well known in the folklore of the American West, but descriptions of animals like them go all the way back to 13th century Persia. A piece of artwork from that area and period shows a rabbit with a horn like that of a unicorn.

Some people think the whole legend about the jackalope is a total hoax (and the mounted jackalope heads with antlers are), but part of the legend may also come from sightings of rabbits with the Shope papiloma virus, which causes horn-like protuberances on the animals. A recent example of this is from Canada, and you can read the story about that on Mysterious Universe. 

A rabbit with Shope papiloma virus.
Could it have inspired stories of the jackalope?


Perhaps even more strange than a rabbit with antlers is a rabbit with wings! This one's called the skvader, and it's just as fake as its cousin the jackalope.
Skvader created by Rudolf Granberg in 1918

The skvader in the picture above was created in the year 1918 by taxidermist Rudolf Granberg, and is on display (permanently) at the museum at Norra Berget in Sundsvall, Sweden. It was created with "forequarters and hind legs of a European hare, and the back, wings and tail of a female wood grouse. It was later jokingly given the Latin name Tetrao lepus pseudo-hybridus raissimus." 

Now, just why and how did the skvader come about? The one in the picture was created in 1918, but the story actually goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. A man named Hakan Dahlmark claimed at a dinner party that he had shot the critter during a hunt in Sundsvall in 1874. In 1907, on Dahlmark's birthday, his housekeeper gave him a painting of the creature he said he had killed over thirty years before.

Just before his death in 1912, Dahlmark donated the painting of the skvader to a museum. While it was begin exhibited in 1916, the museum manager asked taxidermist Rudolf Granberg (mentioned above) to make a re-constructed animal based on Dahlmark's story and painting. Granberg did exactly that, and in 1918 presented it to the museum, where it and the painting remain to this day.

So, not only is the jackalope a fake taxidermy critter, but its winged cousin the skvader is as well. And, even though they are both fake, they sure are cool. You can even find jackalopes for sale online. Maybe I'll get one someday!

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