Lepus Cornutus (Horned Hare): Myth or Reality?

horned hare

Throughout history, legends and mythical creatures have always fascinated us. One such intriguing figure in folklore is the Lepus Cornutus, also known as the horned hare. Believed to exist in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, this mythical creature now lives on as a fascinating tale of what people once thought to be real.

As we delve into the world of Lepus Cornutus, we’ll explore its origins and the impact it had on early naturalists, who for more than 200 years treated it as a distinct species. From illustrations in European Renaissance texts to natural histories, we’ll discover how this captivating horned hare captured the imagination of scholars throughout the centuries.

Origins and Mythology

European Folklore

In European folklore, the Lepus Cornutus, also known as the horned hare, is a mythical creature that was believed to exist in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, but is now considered fictional. We discovered that these mysterious hares were depicted in various medieval and Renaissance artworks, including Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre’s 1789 Tableau Encyclopedique et Methodique.

Our research revealed that the origins of the horned hare myth can be traced back to ancient Persian sources, with a 13th-century geographic dictionary depicting a rabbit with a single, unicorn-like spike on its head. While not quite identical to the Lepus Cornutus, it’s interesting to see how these artworks contributed to the myth during different periods.

North American Legends

Meanwhile, in North America, the legend of the Jackalope emerged – a similar creature resembling a mix between a jackrabbit and an antelope, with antlers like those of a deer. It’s fascinating to compare the similarities between the European Lepus Cornutus and the North American Jackalope.

Here’s where things get even more interesting: the warrior rabbit Kauyumari is a significant figure in the mythology of certain indigenous Central American cultures. While there isn’t a direct connection to Lepus Cornutus, we still find it noteworthy that the notion of a powerful or supernatural rabbit appears in various cultures and legends around the globe.

In conclusion, the horned hare, or Lepus Cornutus has intrigued humanity for centuries. From ancient Persia to Europe and even Central America, this mythical creature has captured our imagination, spurred artistic expression, and made its way into widespread folklore.

The Jackalope in Art and Literature

The mythical creature, Lepus Cornutus, also known as the Horned Hare or Jackalope, has been a subject of fascination in art and literature for centuries. In this section, we’ll delve into the impact of this enigmatic creature in both Renaissance Art and Scientific Works.

Renaissance Art

During the Renaissance, the Jackalope appeared in the works of various prominent artists. One of the most famous representations by Joris Hoefnagel, a renowned Flemish painter, depicted a horned hare with delicate wings. This fantastical image captured the imagination of viewers, further perpetuating the myth of the mysterious creature.

Another notable Renaissance painter who included the Jackalope in his work was Jan Brueghel the Elder. Interestingly, Brueghel took a more realistic approach in his depiction. His horned hare appeared alongside other known animals in a natural setting, lending credibility to its existence.

Yet another example comes from Antonio Tempesta, an Italian painter whose etchings show a mythical horned creature that closely resembles our Jackalope. These artistic representations drew attention to the enigmatic creature and may have been the origin of many later tales and legends.

Scientific Works

While the Jackalope might be a fantastical creature, it found its way into multiple scientific publications. One notable example was Conrad Gessner’s illustrious work Historiae Animalium. As a pioneer of modern zoology, Gessner’s inclusion of the Jackalope as Lepus Cornutus in his compendium added an air of seriousness to the mysterious creature.

John Ray, a British naturalist, also mentioned the horned hare in his books about animals, further extending the reach of the myth. The presence of the Jackalope in such reputable works may have contributed to its continued presence in the annals of history.

It’s fascinating to look back at the Jackalope’s recurrent appearances in art and literature throughout history. From the creative expressions of Renaissance painters to its inclusion in scientific tomes by prominent naturalists, this elusive creature has managed to captivate our minds and imagination, leaving a lasting impact on culture and folklore.

Taxidermy and Pop Culture

Lepus Cornutus

Creation of the Jackalope

We’ve all heard of the mythical jackalope, a creature that’s part hare and part antelope. This horned hare, also known as Lepus cornutus, has been a popular figure in legends and folklore. But did you know that taxidermy played an integral role in bringing this mythical creature to life? It all started in Wyoming, where taxidermists Douglas Herrick and his brother, inspired by mounted deer antlers, decided to graft antlers onto a jackrabbit. This creative idea soon spawned an entire industry of taxidermied jackalopes.

Jackalopes have since gained popularity in pop culture, appearing in various forms of media, from literature to movies. They have even made their way into the souvenir market in states like South Dakota, thanks to places like Wall Drug that sell mounted jackalope heads.

Jackalope Souvenirs

The humble taxidermy beginnings of the jackalope led to a wide array of souvenirs showcasing this mythical creature. You can now find jackalope postcards, t-shirts, and even keychains. However, mounted jackalopes remain the most iconic form of jackalope memorabilia.

Notable artists like Roy Ball have dedicated their careers to creating impressive jackalope specimens, with their work even being featured in the New York Times. With widespread appeal, jackalope souvenirs can now be found in numerous galleries across the United States.

It’s fascinating to see how taxidermy and pop culture have intertwined to create a lasting impression of the jackalope in our minds. From simple taxidermy beginnings to a wide variety of souvenirs and media appearances, the horned hare has truly become a symbol of American folklore.

Jackalopes and Other Mythical Creatures


As we dive into the world of mythical creatures, we can’t help but mention the Wolpertinger. This Bavarian cryptid is said to resemble a horned hare, similar to the Lepus Cornutus. The Wolpertinger is often depicted with various animal features, like the wings of a bird or even the antlers of a deer. Some say it’s a distant relative of the North American Jackalope!


Moving on from the Bavarian forests, we land in the world of Middle Eastern mythology, where we find the Al-Mi’raj. This creature is a peculiar fusion of rabbit and unicorn, with a single horn sprouting from its forehead. While rabbits are often seen as cute and cuddly, the Al-Mi’raj is said to be quite ferocious and capable of defeating larger predators.

Hybrid Animals

Lepus Cornutus, Wolpertinger, and Al-Mi’raj are all examples of hybrid animals that have captured our imaginations. These mythical creatures typically combine multiple animal features, often resulting in a fantastical and bewildering appearance. One of the earliest depictions of a horned hare, or Lepus Cornutus, can be found in Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre’s 1789 Tableau Encyclopédique et Methodique, proving our fascination with such chimerical creatures goes back centuries.

Throughout history, we’ve created many hybrid mythical creatures that reflect our fascination with the natural world and our love for the peculiar. It’s no wonder the kitsch allure of the Jackalope has caught on in North America and beyond, as we continue to share stories and legends about these captivating characters.

Contemporary Interest and Tourism

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the mythical Lepus Cornutus, or horned hare. This creature, once thought to be a distinct species (Lepus cornutus), has become a popular symbol of American folklore, especially in the form of the jackalope—a portmanteau of “jackrabbit” and “antelope.”

Hunting Licenses

Believe it or not, some states like Kansas have taken this folklore a step further by offering “jackalope hunting licenses” through their local chamber of commerce. These tongue-in-cheek licenses allow hunters to “hunt” the elusive creature without harming any real animals. While it’s all in good fun, the licenses also generate revenue for local tourism and bring attention to the horned hare’s existence, albeit a mythical one.

Jackalope Festivals

In addition to hunting licenses, various towns and cities across America have embraced the legend of the jackalope and created festivals dedicated to celebrating this mythical creature. At these festivals, you can find a wide variety of jackalope-themed events and activities, including:

  • Jackalope races: Participants run in hare-inspired costumes, complete with antlers.
  • Jackalope art displays: Local artists submit their interpretations of the creature.
  • Live music: Featuring bands with “jackalope” in their name or songs about the mythical hare.

These festivals have proven quite successful, attracting tourists and generating significant revenue for the towns that host them. By embracing the story of the Lepus Cornutus in a lighthearted manner, we keep the legend alive and add a bit of whimsy to the world of tourism.

Real-Life Connections

Shope Papilloma Virus

While the idea of a horned hare, or Lepus Cornutus, may appear to be purely legendary, a real-life connection to the legend can be found in the Shope papillomavirus. This virus affects jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, and snowshoe hares, causing strange wart-like growths resembling horns. They can grow on various parts of the animal’s body, and we’ve found that sometimes they can appear on or near the animal’s head, giving the illusion of real “horns.”

Though the virus might sound harmless, it can lead to bigger health issues for the infected animals. In some cases, these growths can hinder their ability to function properly and might even be life-threatening. We believe it’s essential to be aware of this fascinating connection to the Lepus Cornutus legend and understand the reality of what’s affecting these animals.

Antlered Animals

Another possible origin for the horned hare myth is the pronghorn, also known by its scientific name Antilocapra americana. Pronghorns are found in North America, often roaming the same areas as rabbits and hares. Sporting impressive antlers, these unique mammals may have contributed to the idea of a horned hare through misidentification or due to the tendency of these animals to live together in the same environment.

In the 19th century, many illustrations and stories of horned hares began to emerge, intertwining with the existing folklore. As a result, sightings of pronghorns and other antlered animals might have fueled the tale.

Throughout history, humans have been fascinated by antlers and other horn-like growths, considering them symbols of strength and power. So it’s not surprising that these antlered animals may have contributed to the legend of the Lepus Cornutus. We can’t help but wonder if the sightings of jackrabbits, snowshoe hares, or cottontail rabbits alongside pronghorns might have been the catalyst for the birth of the horned hare myth.

In conclusion, while the existence of an actual horned hare is still the subject of speculation, we can’t deny the fascinating connections between this mythical creature and real-life animals and occurrences. From the Shope papillomavirus to the pronghorns roaming North America, it’s interesting to see how a seemingly unlikely creature might have its roots in the natural world.


We’ve seen how the idea of Lepus Cornutus, or horned hare, captivated the imaginations of people centuries ago. These mythical creatures were believed to exist during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, but are now considered fictional. We found out that early naturalists even taxonomized them as Lepus Cornutus, thinking they were a distinct species.

While Lepus Cornutus might be part of folklore, we discovered that there is an actual disease affecting rabbits, which can cause them to develop horn-like growths. Richard Shope of Rockefeller University identified this in the 1930s, and it is now known as Shope papilloma, or simply, jackalope disease.

As we delved into the world of Lepus Cornutus, we found intriguing connections between the horned hare and art history. Flemish manuscript illuminator Joris Hoefnagel depicted these creatures in his works, linking the folklore to European Renaissance naturalism.

In our exploration, we uncovered a fascinating blend of truth, folklore, and the natural world surrounding Lepus Cornutus. We witnessed how something fictional could captivate the minds of generations and provide a rich tapestry of stories that still intrigue us today. Although Lepus Cornutus is ultimately a myth, the tale of the horned hare reminds us of the power of imagination and the human desire to make sense of the world around us.

Chris Beckett

Chris Becket is an author and amateur "cryptozoologist" who is obsessed with finding the truth about Bigfoot and other mysterious creatures. He's spent countless hours (and probably a few too many dollars) studying and investigating reports of strange animals and phenomena, and he's convinced he's an expert on everything from Bigfoot to the Yeti.

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