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The Hodag is a cryptid that is said to live in the woods and forests of the Rhinelander area of Northern Wisconsin in the United States. It is described as a fierce creature with characteristics of a few different animals.

Cryptid Name:Hodag
Location:Northern Wisconsin, United States
Map of where the hodag is found
Category:Lumberjack Folklore Cryptid
Description:A large, ferocious beast with the head of a bull or hog, and the tail of an alligator. It is also said to have sharp horns and spines running down its back.
Size:Varied descriptions; originally claimed to be about the size of a horse. In the legend, size was not consistently reported.
Behavior/Characteristics:Initially depicted as aggressive, dangerous, and territorial. Modern interpretations portray it as a humorous and mythical creature.
Diet:In the legend, it was said to be carnivorous, hunting deer and oxen. In modern folklore, its diet is often depicted humorously, eating things like pickles and moon pies.
Habitat/Environment:Supposedly found in the woods of Northern Wisconsin, particularly in the Rhinelander area.
Evidence:The hodag was revealed to be a hoax created by Eugene Shepard in 1893. He used various animal parts and taxidermy techniques to fabricate the creature.
Sightings and Encounters:Sightings of the hodag have been reported in the past, but they were based on the fraudulent display created by Shepard. There are no credible sightings or encounters with real hodags.
Skepticism/Explanations:The hodag is widely recognized as a hoax and a creation of Eugene Shepard. It has been embraced as a quirky part of local folklore and culture in Northern Wisconsin.

What Does The Hodag Look Like?

The Hodag is said to look like a combination of a couple of different animals. It has a lizard-like body with tough and scaly skin. It has a bull-like head complete with long, sharp horns and it has sharp teeth that look similar to those that a walrus would have. It also has strong claws and it is typically described as being fierce and menacing.

Statue of the Hodag
Statue Of The Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin
Source: JSE, CC BY-SA 3.0

Descriptions Of The Hodag

In a book called Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, the author William Thomas Cox gives a detailed description of the hodag which includes what it looks like, its behavior, etc.

This animal has been variously described by woodsmen from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Opinions differ greatly as to the appearance of the beast, some claiming it to be covered with horns and spines and having a maniacal disposition.

The description which seems most authentic and from which the sketch of the animal has been made is as follows: Size, about that of a rhinoceros and somewhat resembling that animal in general makeup. The creature is slow in motion, deliberate, and, unlike the rhinoceros, very intelligent. Its hairless body is mottled, striped, and checked in a striking manner, suggestive of the origin of the patterns upon Mackinaw clothing, now used in the lumber woods. On the hodag’s nose, instead of a horn there is a large spade-shaped bony growth, with peculiar phalanges, extending up in front of the eye, so that he can see only straight up. This probably accounts for the deliberate disposition of the animal, which wanders through the spruce woods looking for suitable food.

About the only living creature which the hodag can catch is the porcupine; indeed, it would appear that the porcupine is its natural food. Upon sighting one rolled up in the branches of a spruce the hodag begins to blink his eyes, lick his chops, and spade around the tree, cutting all the roots until the tree begins to totter. He then backs off, and with a rush rams his shovel nose under the roots and over goes the tree, knocking the breath out of the porcupine in its fall. The hodag then straddles the fallen tree, follows it out to the top, where the huge pointed hoofs of its front feet crush the helpless porcupine, and then deliberately swallows him head first.

In the autumn the hodag strips the bark off a number of spruce or pine trees and covers himself all over with pitch. He then searches out a patch of hardwood timber where dead leaves lie thick on the ground. Here he rolls about until completely encased in a thick, warm mantle of leaves, in which condition he spends the winter.

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods

The Legend Of The Hodag

Artists Impression of the Hodag
Artist’s Impression Of The Hodag

The Hodag legend can be traced back to the late 19th century when a man by the name of Eugene Shepard claimed to have seen and then captured a fierce creature that he named the “Hodag”.

Shepard’s story quickly gained a lot of attention especially when he claimed that he had captured another hodag alive. He displayed the creature, charging admission for people to see it. Despite the initial excitement and interest, skepticism grew about the hodag’s authenticity and Shepard finally admitted that the hodag was a hoax that he created using various animal parts and taxidermy techniques.

However, rather than the legend of the Hodag fading into obscurity, it continues to be a prominent part of Northern Wisconsin’s culture and folklore and is now the official symbol of the town of Rhinelander in Wisconsin. Nowadays it is portrayed as more of a whimsical and humorous creature rather than the terrifying monster it was originally thought to be. In fact, the hodag has also been featured in an episode of Scooby Doo – Scooby’s Gang vs The Hodag.

Hodag Country Festival

Rhinelander hosts an annual event called the “Hodag Country Festival” which celebrates the legend of the hodag with live music, entertainment, and other fun activities. The festival has become a popular tradition with many people traveling to the area to celebrate and it has become one of the region’s most popular events.

The Hodag Country Festival typically runs over four days from Thursday to Sunday and takes place during the summer. It is known for its live country music performances and usually features a lineup of both nationally recognized country music stars and emerging artists.

Is The Hodag A Myth?

Yes, the Hodag is officially considered to be a myth. In the late 19th century, Eugene Shepard claimed to have captured a hodag. However, he later confessed that he had fabricated the creature using different animal parts and taxidermy techniques to make the creature look real.


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