Searching online, or looking at some postcards, you will notice images of a jackalope which is depicted as a jackrabbit with antlers (branched horns often found in adult deer). This may make some people wonder whether some of these lagomorphs really have antlers or not.
A jackalope or Frankenstein rabbit is a famous American legend just like werewolves and unicorns. They are part of the taxidermic trickery and they are created by sewing or attaching antlers to taxidermy rabbits.
The creators clean, preserve and stuff dead bun’s skin with some material to make them look like they are alive. Afterward, they sew or graft the antlers. This makes them look as if they are real and some people may assume so.
The term jackalope is a ‘jackrabbit’ and ‘antelope’ portmanteau word and the myth was popularized in the 1930s by Douglas Herrick working with his brother. They were hunters who were skilled with taxidermy and made them for sale.
A bunny with horns has been graphically depicted in various cultures. For instance, as early as in the 13th century, there was a Persian work that depicted a bunny with one horn. Similarly, horned rabbits have been depicted in Bavaria’s folklore in medieval to renaissance times, and as well as some scientific books in the late 18th century.
Maybe, a genuine question would be why such depictions especially in ancient times? Did they relate to some reality or were they born out of sheer imagination?
So, do horned rabbits exist?
No. Rabbits do not have horns. However, there have been cases of eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus spp.) having growths on their face and head regions that resemble horns. There sighting could have ignited this legend.
The facial growths in these animals are caused by the Shope papillomavirus discovered by Richard Shope, an American virologist. This virus causes growths that that can be described as “hard, keratinized horns”  and can affect hares, jackrabbits as well as the European rabbit.
These growths or structures often have a black or grey color and are common on head, neck, shoulder areas especially on areas that do not have many furs such as eyelids and ears.
These growths can grow so long to an extent of interfering with a bunny’s normal life including feeding, grooming and so on. There are various ways to treat papillomatosis caused by the Shope papilloma.
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