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The Strange American Folklore of the Jackalope

The 'cowboy cryptid' is native to western America.

What do jackalopes and Sexually Transmitted Infections have in common? This woman delves into the fascinating history of these American west cryptids to bring you the surprising answer. Tales of rabbits with horns growing out of their heads predominantly originated in the mid-west during westward expansion born of tales cowboys told around the campfire of the strange and unusual things they saw on their travels.  

These tales were brought to “life” by taxidermists with a sense of humor but what were the pioneers really seeing? Some say these legends were based on rabbit papilloma virus which causes keratinous tumors resembling horns that often form on the animal’s head. This virus is related to the human STI of similar name that causes warts on human hosts. Is a virus really to blame for these urban legends of the American west or is there more to the story?

Another common feature of tales from the western frontier about jackalopes is an association with human mimicry. Idyllic scenes of sitting around the campfire at night strumming a guitar and singing some old folk tunes becomes haunting when another voice seems to join in the singing despite being miles away from human settlements. Some believe these ghostly duets were actually from jackalopes in the night, imitating the human voices breaking the silence. Some tales even attribute the rabbit antelope hybrid with shapeshifting powers of the fae - which are also known to enjoy revelry such as music and singing.

Another bit of jackalope lore that suggests fae origins is how it is said to go about trapping one, should you choose to risk the ire of the fair folk, which is by using whiskey. An offering of alcohol is a common theme of offerings to fairy and fae-kin. Why would one want to catch themselves a horned rabbit? Some stories say these American fae creatures can be milked for a magical cure-all that will heal any ailment or injury. 

Modern cryptozoologists speculate that increase in motor vehicle usage could be responsible for fewer sightings of elusive crytpids throughout the americas, and some believe reverting to horseback can disguise human traces that would otherwise cause these creatures to flee. While this methodology is predominantly being researched in relation to bigfoot, it could potentially be relevant to why these cryptids were often spotted by cowboys and so rarely claimed to be seen today.  

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