History of Ralph's Rabbit Ranch

History of Ralph's Rabbit Ranch

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jack-O-Lopes … Fact, Fiction or Legend?

Here are some interesting thoughts to
ponder.  Take a few minutes read this
article and share your opinion. 



Every culture across the globe has legends; legends that persist because some are based on fact and others because so many people in that culture believe in those legends.


Amazingly many of the legends around the world involve animals.  All animals described in legends are called cryptids. a word from ancient Greece - specifically the Greek word krypton - which means “hiding” or “to hide”. 

Scientists refer to legendary animals as cryptids because they have no solid physical evidence to support that they ever existed.  None have ever been captured and they can't find sufficient fossil remains.

Examples of cryptid creatures are numerous. For instance in Tibet there is well established legend regarding the Yeti - better know as 
the Abominable Snowman. The yeti is a mysterious bipedal creature {bi pedal basically means it walks on two legs upright like a man}. For years the Yeti has been reported to seen roaming the snowy peaks of the Himalaya mountains.

Also in Scotland there is a legendary creature known as the Loch Ness monster.  Nessy as it is affectionately called is said to be an aquatic monster.  Many believe it is some sort of prehistoric water based dinosaur that some how survived extinction by living deep beneath the surface of Loch Ness, the deepest loch in Scotland.  Though it has not been confirmed many sat it has underground channels that lead to the north sea.

In Latin America there is the amazing animal known as the Chupacabra – a fierce pig-like dog that farmers and plantation owners have had numerous encounters with.  The Chupacabras destroy crops and kill livestock during their nocturnal foraging activities. Reports surfaced in early 2004 that the Chupacabras had migrated northward and entered many areas of southern Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico.

But the best example of a cryptid in the north America is Bigfoot. Stories of Bigfoot {or a ape like man} have been reported for centuries in the United States and Canada.  Native American tribes and the early pioneers who traveled westward in their Conestoga wagons on the Santa Fe and Oregon trails all recount tales of Bigfoot.  Even today, hunters and fishermen from Wyoming, Idaho, Washington State, Oregon and Northern California often file reports with their state and local government authorities saying they saw a hairy ape like creature in the dense wooded forests along the mountain ridges.

Because we raise Rabbits here at Ralph's Rabbit Ranch, it only natural I think that we often get asked - mostly by school aged children - to confirm the legend(s) of the Jack-O-Lopes. 
All I can honestly say is that twenty years ago I would have said there is absolutely no such creature at a Jack-O-Lope - the large rabbit like creature with antlers. I would have dismissed it as a fairy tale; however, today I am no longer really sure.

After having attended hundreds of rabbit conventions, livestock trade shows and breeder conferences across the country, I heard so many Jack-O-Lope stories; that I can no longer discount them as false.  Today I can't say for sure that Jack‑O‑Lopes did not - or do not - exist.

Here are a few things I've learned since I started raising rabbit.  First the official name for the north American Jack-O-Lope is the Americanus Delicioso Conjo Carne. Just read the information below and decide for yourself if Jack-O-Lopes actually did exist or whether they still inhabit unpopulated areas of western America today.

First and foremost, fossilized remains of what appear to be an antlered or horned rabbit type creature have been found in all of the lower 48 states as well as in Alaska (but not Hawaii).

Second, libraries and major universities in both Spain and France contain hand-written reports from Spanish conquistadors and French fur traders who traveled to the new world. All these reports on file chronicle what these early explorers believed were encounters with large horned rabbit-like creatures in the new world. All these describe how men on these early expeditions were afraid after seeing “vast herds of hopping, long eared, horned creatures”.

Third, twenty-nine native North American tribes to this day from Kansas to California have detailed folklore which they pass down from generation to generation referring to “the great rabbit with antlers”. Amazingly each year, many Native American cultures perform annual rituals and ceremonies to give thanks to these 'hopping horned creatures' who helped and protected their ancestors.

Fourth (and this blew me away), when members of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition party which was authorized by President Andrew Jackson in 1804 returned back to Washington DC, three years later, the men on this expedition all shared identical, detailed accounts of large herds of hopping horned creatures. The majority of these first-hand accounts of sighting these creatures occurred along what we now call the Missouri and Colorado rivers in the far western half of the American continent.

Now here is what it really gets weird. During both the 19th and 20th centuries, just about every American elementary school student was taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. We now however know this is not true. Archaeologists have assembled a preponderance of evidence that suggests Asian and Polynesian seafarers made routine visits to the west coasts of both South and North America. Pottery, metal objects, skeletons and weapons from Pacific Island based cultures have been found from British Columbia all the way south to the tip of Chile {or Cape Horn}. 


Likewise, there is irrefutable archaeological proof that Norsemen from Scandinavian countries, such as Norway, Denmark and Iceland all landed in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and other various locations along the northeastern shores of what is now Canada and the New England. These Nordic hunters and explores actually constructed permanent shelters and hunted all kinds of animals and fish in the new world.

Scientists now know for a fact that rats are not indigenous to the Unites States; they believe rats were introduced to America from the ports of Spain on Columbus' three ships - 
the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Its believe rats stowed away on the ships before leaving port and hid in the hulls of the ships during their voyage across the Atlantic. The rats would have have disembarked down the anchor ropes when the ships entered the waters of the New World for the first time. 

Interestingly a growing number of paleontologists and zoologists theorize that seafaring Scandinavian countries like Norway, with their flat-bottomed “Viking Longboats”, also carried unwanted animal cargo's. Their unwanted cargo however was wild Scandinavian hares. Many believe the wild Scandinavia hares hopped on the ancient Viking vessels at port and made the voyage to North America. Once the longboats arrived in new world harbors, the hares simply hopped onto shore.

Scandinavian hares are extremely adaptive creatures and could have easily adjusted to life in the new world. 
Scandinavian hares are feisty animals; not at all like their timid rabbit cousins who live in central and southern Europe. Wild Scandinavian hares can run at phenomenal speeds and they possess tremendous agility – all characteristics they developed living on the frozen tundra of Scandinavia. Once on North American soil these wild hares would have had access to an unlimited supply of food and no known predators to worry about. 

We know from the works of Charles Darwin and the theories he purported in his book 'The Origins of Species' that every order of animals has a predisposed natural instinct to reproduce. Perpetuating the population is paramount to ensure survival of their species. 

Scandinavian hare could have naturally mated with other indigenous animals here in north America. Hares, just like rabbits, have a short gestation period with frequent breeding periods throughout the year.  Wild Scandinavian hares could have easily been the link that evolved into the Jack-O-Lope creatures we hear so much about in North American legends.

The hare population could have exploded within just a few years. The growing herds of Scandinavian hares would have naturally had to migrate and the way they would migrate would be westward and southerly throughout all the North American continent.

Now the sheer size and physical strength of Scandinavian hares would have made it impossible for them to successfully mate with the small indigenous rabbits already habitatting the new world. The thought of a Scandinavian hare mating with a native American rabbit would be tantamount to a St Bernard trying to mate with a Chihuahua ‑ it just wouldn’t or couldn't work. 


So it has been postulated that these large Scandinavian hares would have begun to mate - often with other species more appropriate for their size – animals such as coyotes, foxes, weasels, otters and even small deer. Yes, deer!

There are small deer, deer such as the Andean Pod, a deer prevalent in many if out southern states. Andean Pod deer stand roughly 16 inches high and weigh approximately 20 lbs - making them perfect mating objects for Scandinavian hares. In addition, during their southerly migrations the wild European hares could have came in contact with the Key deer of Florida, as well as other small species of deer that habitat throughout the Florida Keys region.

If the wild Scandinavian hares had mated with these small deer, this could easily explain antlered offspring.  Large fast running rabbits with antlers would have easy translated into Jack‑O‑Lopes, a word that represents a hybrid between a Jack rabbit and an antelope.

Now here are three facts you should consider before you discount the legends of the Jack-O-Lope:

A) Native American folklore purports that buffalo and Jack-O-Lope freely roamed the North American continent in massive herds.  They both had similar and predictable migration patterns.

B) Many early European immigrants heading out west stated in their diaries that they would not have been able to survive their journeys had it of not been for the abundance of food they had to choose from:

     1) Buffalo (or bison which we call it today)

         and,

     2) Large horned prairie rabbits (the Jack-O-

          Lopes).

C) The back and forth migration patterns of the massive buffalo and Jack-O-Lope herds had a tremendous impact on the north American landscape and its vegetation. Their sheer numbers in each herd helped transformed the woodlands of North America into vast grasslands and prairies providing early pioneers with limitless open plains to plant their crops.

It was not until after thousands of Europeans, starting with the Pilgrims, then the Puritans and eventually the western pioneers that the massive herds of Jack-O-Lope were brought under control. Once the new settlers brought in their domesticated livestock and had a stable supply of fresh meet; their dependence on the Buffalo's and Jack-O-Lopes as a food source was no longer needed consequently it is believed they began to systematically slaughter them to prevent overgrazing of the lands they needed for their domestic livestock.

So there you have it - everything I know about the Jack-O-Lope. Now you tell me – are Jack-O-Lopes fact, fiction or legend? Are they cryptids (fictional creatures) like so many believe or are they, or were they real?


Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments you would like.  At Ralph's Rabbit Ranch we do more than just provide great tasting Rabbit meat.  We try to answer questions and share American history.  
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