A cornered Hodag

The Wisconsin Hodag

The Hodag, a creature native to Wisconsin, has the head of a bull, the back of a dinosaur, and the leering features of a giant man. Its legs are short, its claws are long, and its tail is spear-tipped.

It is a supernatural beast. According to legend, in its first life it took the form of an ox that belonged to Paul Bunyan. Upon its death, the ox was burned for seven years to cleanse it of the profanity of its master. But seven years was not long enough. The soul of the ox emerged from the ashes in the shape of a Hodag, exuding a foul odor.

Eugene S. Shepard and a group of companions tracked the creature down to Rhinelander, Wisconsin where they succeeded in capturing it. After its capture the creature was displayed for many years at country fairs. The exhibition of the Hodag usually occurred in dim light. According to malicious rumors, what was actually exhibited was a large dog over which a horse's hide had been stretched, but such rumors have never been substantiated.

The Hodag's name comes from combining the words 'horse' and 'dog.' It is also known as the Bovine Spiritualis.

Jack Cory, editor of the Rhinelander Daily News, once hypothesized that the Hodag was "the long-sought missing link between the ichthyosaurus and the mylodoan" of the Ice Age.

Pictures showing a Hodag surrounded by men with pitchforks (similar to the one to the left) appeared on many Wisconsin postcards during the first decades of the 20th century. The same pictures also hung in many saloons.