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Jackalope

The jackalope is an American invention. However, there is a surprising connection to Renaissance Europe. We’ll look at what a jackalope is, where it came from, and the correlation with a seventeenth century European scientific tome. We’ll also examine a few uses of the word jackalope in sentences.

A jackalope is a mythical animal that is deemed to be a cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope. The word jackalope is a portmanteau of these two words. In fact, most representations of jackalopes consist of a jack rabbit paired with deer antlers fashioned to look like the horns of a pronghorn. The jackalope is usually depicted to be the same size as a jack rabbit, but with a dangerously ferocious disposition. In the 1930s, Douglas and Ralph Herrick mounted the first taxidermy representation of a jackalope and sold it to the Bone Hotel in Douglas, Wyoming. They soon had a booming business creating jackalopes for the tourist trade. Interestingly, the idea of the jackalope may have its roots in Renaissance Europe. Various books depict rabbits with horns, including Historiae Naturalis de Quadrupetibus Libri  by Joannes Jonstonus. These depictions were widely regarded as fantasy, though research has found that there are rabbits occasionally seen in the wild with growths caused by a papilloma virus that may be mistaken for antlers or fangs.  The image of the jackalope remains a popular joke, once used to fool gullible travelers to whom the American West was a dangerous and unbelievable place. It is now reproduced in stuffed animals, postcards, jewelry, t-shirts, mugs and any other tourist paraphernalia one may imagine.


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Examples

The mythical jackalope – a jackrabbit with antelope’s antlers – may have had its origins in Wyoming, but the creatures, particularly popular on souvenir postcards, have been “spotted” across the country and the myth has only grown. (The Wichita Eagle)

Ogle the world’s oldest cello (the Amati-made instrument of the mid-1500s) and earliest harpsichord (ca. 1530); the extinct, banjo-like cittern, circa 1579; exotic 17th-century ebony and ivory guitars; and a harp-guitar (the jackalope of instruments). (Lavender Magazine)

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