Occupation: College student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/21/2019
Primary Language: English
Context: The informant is among two peers of mine who grew up in Texas. My peers began sharing and comparing amusing and humorous pieces of folklore from their hometowns, as well as discussing how the folklore has worked to shape their families’ beliefs and southern values. An excerpt of their conversation can be found below.
Informant: So, I grew up in Texas and there are a lot of different mythological creatures concerning Texas wildlife. And one thing that people talked about a lot was the jackalope, which is a combined animal of an antelope and a jack rabbit. And it came up a lot when I was going on school field trips to go camping. We went on these camping trips called O.L.E (Outdoor Learning Explorations), and they would tell us not to go out alone at night because the jackalopes would come after us. And so, that really terrified me, so I didn’t go out at night because of the jackalopes. What’s interesting is that people would have these things, like taxidermied jackalopes, on their walls in Texas, and I was like always so confused about why they had jackalopes on their walls. Like, how did you hunt it down? Could you not have died from a jackalope attack? And what’s interesting now looking it up is that it is the state mythological creature of Wyoming, so I guess it’s not just a Texas thing. But yeah, I really thought the jackalope was real until super recently when I Googled it because it was such a big part of my childhood.
Informant’s relationship to the item: My informant seems to be fully indoctrinated into the mythology of her home state; even though she is 20 years old, she only discovered recently that the jackalope is not a real creature — a testament to the large role it plays in the childhoods of children who grew up in her community in Texas. The presence of manufactured taxidermy jackalopes in people’s homes likely added to her confusion about the state of the jackalope’s existence. Additionally, the informant describes growing up in fear of attacks from the jackalope — a fear that was taken advantage of by figures of authority in her life in order to keep children in line.
Interpretation: It is interesting to hear how adults use the existence of the jackalope, as well as its purported vicious nature, as a scare tactic to keep children in line. The creature appears to serve a similar role in tight-knit southern communities as early fairy tales did, which were geared toward teaching children both moral and practical lessons. Belief in the creature, or at least knowledge of its legendary status, seem to be deeply ingrained in the psyches of Texas citizens. Additionally, the practice of cryptozoology, or the act of hunting for legendary creatures appears to be associated with the rumored existence of the jackalope. The manufactured taxidermy jackalopes found in people’s homes probably add to the folk belief in their existence. Also, the fact that taxidermy jackalopes are a widespread folk item in Texas means that jackalopes, and the product made in their likeness, are likely an important aspect of Texas’s (and, apparently, Wyoming’s) tourist economies.
To read more about the legend surrounding the jackalope, as well as the man who first created the legendary creature, refer to this 2003 LA Times article:
Oliver, Myrna. “Douglas Herrick, 82; on a Whim He Created ‘Jackalope’.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 23 Jan. 2003, www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-jan-23-me-herrick23-story.html.