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  • Writer's picturekellinthewoods

Wolpertingers and Jackalopes

I Tweeted about Wolpertingers last Thursday for Twitter's weekly #FolkloreThursday. They're cute little beasties from the alpine forests of Bavaria and parts of Baden-Wurttemberg in southern Germany.

'Wolpertinger' edited from Young Hare, a painting of a hare by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)

The most common description of a wolpertinger includes the head of a hare, the body of a squirrel, the antlers of a deer, and the wings and sometimes the legs of a pheasant. It is similar to the Rasselbock of the Thuringian Forest, the Dilldapp of the Alemannic region, and the Elwedritsche of the Palatinate region, and the Swedish Skvader. Interestingly Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm wrote about a creature called a 'Kreißl' in their work a Collection of German Legends in 1753.

Cheeky Bavarian taxidermists used to create fake wolpertingers (fun fact: this is called 'rogue taxidermy', which is kind of like mixed media sculpture with animal parts (think stuffed unicorns and griffins) and display them in inns and hotels. The Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum (German Hunting and Fishing Museum) in Munich still has a Wolpertinger collection.

Stuffed Wolpertinger, on display in der Rheinfelder Beerhall (Zurich) by James Steakley

So are they cute or horrifying? I think they're pretty adorable, and further reading tells me that they are shy and harmless to humans, eating a diet of smaller animals, forest herbs, roots and the occasional insect.

Interestingly, quite a few people on Twitter mentioned called the wolpertinger 'a jackalope with wings.' Being Australian, I'd never heard of a jackalope before, but they're pretty interesting too. A creature of North American folklore, they're described as a jackrabbit crossed with an antelope.

If, like me, you don't really know what a jackrabbit is, it's another name for a hare, and if you don't what a hare is, it's a rabbit with longer ears that lives aboveground, not in an underground warren. (I told you. Australian.)

And yes, while we're at it, I don't actually know what an antelope looks like either. Here's a pic of both.

When you put them together, you get the jackalope.

Image: Wikia of Wing Haven

According to the folklore, jackalopes are carnivorous and hunt in packs. They are dangerous if threatened, and anyone who hunts them is advised to wear stovepipes on their legs to avoid being gored. The best way to lure one in is to use whiskey, the jackalope's favourite beverage.

Jackalopes are able to mimic human voices and carry a tune. They will use these skills to evade capture.

Douglas, Wyoming is the Jacklaope capital of the United States. It's there you can get a jackalope hunting license, which allows you to hunt one jackalope between sunset and sunrise only, and only on the 31st June.

So which critter would you prefer living in your backyard? It's hands down the magical, herbivorous Wolpertinger for me. I mean, look at this Wolpertinger print by German graphic artist Peg Essert over at Society6. (I just bought one for my office.) Sensational!

Wolpertinger Art Print by Peg Essert - available at Society6


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