The Hodag. [& a few lesser known variants] - [Fearsome Critters | Cryptids.]
• About this Critter: Vicariously described among lumbermen & most often attributed to a famous hoax from Rhinelander Wisconsin. - "Hodags" are usually noted for their ugliness, lateral horns, spiny backs and hooked tails, the creatures are reputed to be outstanding in both ferocity, stench, and melancholy. - Most accounts describe Hodags as either reptilian or bull-like with "glowing eyes, bull horns & a grimacing smile with tusks like an elephants, and a very foul odour, which smells like 'buzzard meat' combine with 'skunk perfume." - Though variants of the creature may vary in appearance, build, size and even species. They range from 'the size of a large bulldog' to 'nearly the size of a rhino.' - Your average hodag is said to be about 7 feet long, 30 inches high. - Most Hodags are said have a diet consisting of turtles, raccoons and porcupines, what seems to be most similar between all hodags is that they adore the taste of little white bulldogs as a Sunday treat, a hungry hodag will not hesitate to eat a man either, but most Hodags avoid doing so as they are said to have a citrus allergy (especially lemon juice, eating lemons (or food which including them in cooking) make for an effective Hodag repellent.
..Opinions differ greatly on the appearance & exact origins of the Hodag, Despite Rhinelander might have the most famous/well-doccumented instance of a Hodag, the story of "hodags" does not begin, nor does it end there...
The Hodag as a monster of American myth actually has several variants across the united states, dating back to the turn of the previous century, the earliest known book with mentions of the hodag as a 'mysterious animal' [Cryptid] can actually be found, briefly mentioned in an 1870 history of Kent County, Michigan. Where a Mill was named after the sighting.
[The account from said 1870 history book via library of congress.]
According to the popular 'Hodag' legend included in Lake Shore Kerney's Book: "THE HODAG AND OTHER TALES OF THE LOGGING CAMPS ” [Published 1928] - Early Lumberjack superstition says that a hodag appears every time the bones of an oxen are cremated in the woods. [other early sources say "Whenever an oxen is butchered or accidentally killed in the woods, its spirit transforms into a hodag of the same colour."] - the unrestful spirit is the results of having profanities (in several languages.) shouted at it for most of the poor oxens life. -
"The belief of those sturdy woodsmen was that seven years of continuous fire was necessary to exterminate the profanity which had accumulated in the body of the ox." "...As the fire died down, there slowly issued from the great pile of ashes, a mystical animal, later known as the hodag." - "The ox's soul would emerge from the ashes in the shape of a Hodag, exuding a foul odour." - Other (perhaps often more fanciful) stories which mention this say that this was specifically a grudge left behind by Paul Bunyan's "Babe" (The Big Blue Ox) when babe died everyone mourned and different lumber camps took turns cremating the beloved ox, but Babe was so large that it took seven full years to burn the entire ox and yet another 'Hodag' rose from the ashes each year.
...If this myth is to be believed then one could say, potentially there are at least '7 True Hodags' out there... [potentially many more depending on the version] -
[of course, It's quite important to note againthat the exact details for Hodag's 'origin story' will vary depending on where you are and whomever you might hear it from first, such is the nature of most tall tales, I'm just recounting the story as I know it and am using the following as a jumping point because of all the 'hodag origins' I've heard or read, it ties any and all of the following 'Hodags' together quite nicely.]
Below I present to you just a few variants of 'Hodag' (starting by recounting the history of the most famous one from Rhinelander) - other 'hodags' species which were mentioned in papers from around the same time & some adjacent creatures which I've found during my research that might land under the hodag umbrella. Mostly from articles starting in the 1890s onwards.) - These stories are recounted as accurately as I can without stepping on others toes:
• Notable "Hodag" Variants:
• "Eugene Shepards Black Hodag."
[BLACK HODAG. - Hodag Press. - Shepard's first published drawing of the Hodag as it appeared in a 1893 issue of Rhinelander's weekly paper, the "New North."]
The 'black hodag' is the most well-known and fearsome of the hodags, said to have a 'Maniacle disposition.' the famous story goes that In 1893, Timber cruiser and renowned prankster: Eugene Simeon Shepard, of Rhinelander Wisconsin, Encountered a seven-foot-long creature with two horns, spikes along its spine like a dinosaur, and sharp-clawed feet: specifically It had: "the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end". – Wisely Shepard retreated and told others about his encounter. - Story goes that Shepard rallied up a posse of lumberjacks and they went hunting for it, bringing along weapons & their pet white bulldogs (which apparently stood no chance against the beast! (It ate them all up in a single bite and it soon developed a taste for them!) according to some accounts, they somehow managed to defeat the beast by blowing it up with TNT!!!
It was not until three years later that a determined Eugene Shepard captured a 'live Hodag.' - In the autumn of 1896, Shepard claimed to have encountered yet another hodag, He and his posse had managed to subdue the beast using chloroform-soaked rags. - Shepard took it back to his home where he kept it locked up in a deep pit which he had dug out back behind his shed: he fed the beast turtles & white bulldogs every Sunday. - (Humorously its often said that this is the reason why very few bulldogs are seen in Rhinelander.)
1896-10-26 Here is the Hodag The Minneapolis Journal (Minneapolis, MN), p. 10
They loaded it up in a cart and later Shepard displayed the "creature", [A fake made by wood-carver Luke Kearney] He displayed his Hodag at the first Oneida County fair. Thousands of people came to see the hodag at the fair, they had it inside of a dimly lit tents. Having connected wires to it, Shepard would occasionally move the creature, running behind a screen and back out with a shredded change of clothes (making it look like he was attacked.) - (See also: Gowrow & Gyasticus.) This would typically send the already-skittish attendees fleeing from the display. -- They made a killing at 10¢ a head, and it was said that over 5000 people came to see it! ($500 was a lot back in the day.)
-Then, One day The Smithsonian Institution of Washington DC announced that they were going to send scientists to travel to Rhinelander to inspect the discovery, forcing Shepard to admit that it had always been a hoax. - However, despite the creature's fakeness, the legend of the Hodag forever caught on in the town of Rhinelander and the fame helped secure the city’s future, putting it on the map. it was and still is a source of local pride. In the 1920s, Rhinelander began issuing official postcards featuring the creature, which further attracted tourists who were curious to see if it actually existed or not.
[ Capture of the hodag. – "Allegedly taken in 1899, a recreation Photograph, used for postcards in the 1920's depicting the lumberjacks capturing the hodag, that's Eugene Shepard standing on the far right, holding a stick. Mary Kosloske, Eugene Shepard's granddaughter, confirms that the child laying in the foreground is her father Layton Shepard. - In 1899 Layton Shepard was seven years old." - "Hodag press."]
• Rhinelander's "Chamber Hodag." –
The town mascot which evolved from Shepards stories. - Today Rhinelander Wisconsin has celebrated the Hodag as its official symbol and mascot for over 123 years! - [one can go through an entire illustrated, interactive experience on their tourism site here.] - Most modern depictions of the 'black hodag' depict it as a green monster with red eyes, (though earlier illustrations & statues depict it brown or black.) - Today, You can visit the Official Hodag store as well as take part in events such as the hodag country music festival & Hodag Heritage fest. Their logging museum also houses an impressive collection of stuffed hodags as well - In 2013: the Rhinelander Tourisim committee produced a series of short videos in which actors pretended to be eyewitnesses of hodag sightings. - Another modern funny fact is that The Rhinelander hodag is also frequently illustrated enjoying cheese (one of the area's major exports.) You can even buy a hodag inspired sandwich & cheese curds at their many eateries. - According to Rhinelanders website, when something strange or out of the ordinary occurs locals say "Was it a Hodag?"
[Rhinelanders "Chamber Hodag" seen outside the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce.]
• The Hodag. - Latin: (Deformis corniger lacrimans.) - [Fearsome Critters, 1939]
Stepping back in the timeline: In 1939; The Rhinelander variety of hodag was also included in Henry H Tyrons, Fearsome Critters. According to him: Hodags can be easily avoided using lemons and laughter, lemon working as a surefire repellent. The creature's amber colored, crystalized tears (which it cries when insulted or mocked) are sometimes used for jewelry, The creatures smaller front teeth were formerly used for umbrella handles.
• Spotted Hodag: Latin (Bovine Spiritualis).
The 'spotted hodag' was cataloged & mentioned across several newspapers beggining in January of 1896-1897 where it was used part of various advertisements for the 'Centralia Lumber Co’ (Washington) - (it was 'Photographed' by T.A. Taylor.) - [people could order lumber and request more information about the hodag] This "Spotted Hodag" can move incredibly fast though it has "crooked legs" like a reptile. it can also "spin" its horns on a swivel for improved offensive and defensive abilities. -[Given the time this was published, It was probably piggybacking on recent Rhinelanders 'Black Hodag' hype.] -
• "Shovel Nosed" Hodag: (Latin: Nasobatilus hystrivoratus.) -"Fearsome Creatures" 
Predating, Tyron's, this variety of Hodag was Recorded by State forester William T Cox and was published in "Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods."  said to be 'About the size of a Rhino' with an iconic "shovel-shaped-bone spur" as a nose, which it uses to dig up the roots of trees until they fall, this is in order to get at hiding porcupines which it devours head first!!! - it has hooves instead of claws and stiff hind legs which don't bend, it sleeps against trees and other structures. - (see also the 'Hugag.') - Because it digs: this one takes on the most literal meaning to the word "hoe-dag" which is also a type of digging tool.)
• "Sidehill dodge Hodags" - "The Happy Hodag of the Hills" - "Hillside Ghysers" - (Latin: "Hodagius dissimilipedis ananioidiaes")
[Arizona Republican. - April 13,  (titled "Hodags Fill Bloody Basin")]
• Hillside Ghyser: According to an article published in the Arizona Republican. - April 13,  (titled "Hodags Fill Bloody Basin") [an area known for various repute.] The 'Hillside Ghyser' is a direct cousin to the Black Hodag and resembles it exactly, but it has longer, slimmer legs ideal for romping through the hillside. - a later article published March 2nd 1913 ("Cold Weather drives hodags to their lairs") describes them as "nearly identical to the hodag, But more Canine or Wolf-like in appearance. - The 2nd article also gives them the distinctive Latin name "Hodagius dissimilipedis ananioidiaes" - The following 'Sidehill-Hodags' are apparently said to be the offspring of the two:
• The 'Sidehill-Dodge Hodag' (not to be confused with the 'sidehill dodger') but sometimes similarly known as the "Cyascutus" is said to be known to dwell in the hills and bluffs of Southwestern Wisconsin, it is a variant of hodag which was said to have evolved to have even longer legs to more easily run across the hills, but it has the shorter legs on the uphill side, its diet consists of rocks. it has a spiked tail exactly like the black hodag does. (see also: SideHill Dodgers, Gyasticus.)
...These 'Sidehill Hodags' might also stem from stories relating to the "Pine-eating hodag." sometimes also known as the 'Happy Hodag of the hills' – a variety of the beast which was written in The American Murcury,  (Shortly Predating Kearney's story, making it one of the earliest hodag tales on record.) The story says that the creature was said to have "Saw-like teeth, axe pronghorns and a tree bark-like hide, with chalk in its paws. it would ravage the timber, preying on all varieties." - These 'Happy hodags' are also said to be arch enemies with another critter known as the Dismal Sauger a dripping wet, Miserable creature which causes immeasurable sadness in all it meets. (According to some: thankfully these 'Happy Hodag' are also said to make a gleeful "huck-a-haw-huck-a-hoo" sound which works as an antidote to this incurable sadness, but can also cause those that hear it to lose their balance and roll down the hill!) - The two engaged in turf wars which ultimately lead both creatures to their mutual extinction.
• "Cave Hodag": (latin name unknown)
The 'Cave hodag' is a curious one said to be the evolutionary successor to the "Sidehill Dodge Hodag" Supposedly it is also the smallest type of hodag, it is the result of hodags migrating to hide in caves to escape loggers or the sudden cold weather. - They live in limestone caves which are widespread across the states: and have 'evolved' to have 3 glowing eyes for better dark vision. - The cave hodag variant appears on the Wisconsin speleological society's badges given out as part of the annual 'Hodag Hunt Festival' which has been held annually since at least 1988 by the Wisconsin Speleological Society in the caves near Cherney Maribel Caves Park, Wisconsin: Their version of the 'cave hodag' is pink, has five legs, ending in star shaped feet, & 3 large eyes! (Quite bizarre looking as far as hodags go, appearing nothing like the other hodags on this list!) - Their website site also shows art of a Canine hodag variant & a far more 'ordinary-looking 'mini hodag' as well!) - As part of the festival activities. Children are to explore the caves to find a replica hodag. (see also: Snipe Hunting.) – I've reached out to the society with questions about the origins of this pink hodag, but sadly have yet to get a response, will update if that ever changes. - There are also some humorous modern accounts of 'cave hodags' haunting the links of local golf courses, where they steal the player's hole in ones, eating their golf balls.
•Arizona Sidehill Hodag: (Piebald Petulama?)
- [I'd like to thank my friends at fearsomecritters.ca for bringing this one (and a few others here) to my attention!] - A couple months after the above mentioned "Bloody basin" incident according to the Evening herald, July 1913: President Theodore "Teddy" Rosevelt decided to hunt the "Arizona Hodag" during a trip through Albuquerque, not much else is mentioned about what this variety of Hodag might've looked like. - But, The Kearney Morning Times a couple days later fired back at their piece, mentioning the earlier 'bloody basin' hodag incident, insisting that the hodag was real and that the hodag had appeared in places such as New York, California, New Mexico and North Carolina! they ended their tyrade by mentioning a creature similar to the hodag called the "piebald petumula" had been scarcely seen (though theres little mention as to what that might have been other than that that its similar to the hodag.) ...Regardless of this somewhat silly exchange. President teddy seems to have a 'bully' (good) time during his stay. Rosevelts involvement is most notable as it wasn't the first time he 'went hunting' for 'critters' either, perhaps somewhat more famously: in 1909 Teddy told papers that he wanted to hunt & kill the 'Snallygaster.' - Teddy also once wrote to and thanked William T Cox for his service as a woodsman personally. ...Perhaps we haven't heard much about these 'Arizona Hodags" for this reason.
• The "Hoedag." aka the "Terrible hoedag." - [GrandLake, St.Marys, Ohio. 1910-12.]
A Distinct 'Nessie'-like lake monster from Grand lake, Ohio and seemingly a regional variant to the "Hodag" - read more about it here!
[above image provided to me via ST.Mary's Lake improvement agency, who also provided me with additional information. - I plan to draw a sticker & am working on an extended article about this one, expect it soon! - in the meantime *More information about it can be found archived here.]
• Similar Creatures:
Another similar creature from the time which shares an illustrated appearance that which is strikingly similar to the 'hodag' is the 'Dog Eater' - [published in Kentucky Newspapers in late 1893, these 'dog eaters' seem to be widespread in old papers across the states.] - Given that Eugene's 'Hodag' specifically eats "white bull-dogs" & the fact that the publish date of these was pretty close to Shephard's first article. it's possible that he took inspiration from these dog eaters. - [Note: just speculation.] - these 'Dog Eaters' are described as being a bit more panther-like in appearance as well....
[Mishipeshu via wikipedia]
...On the note of "panthers": Many Cryptozoologists, Newstations & Historians have previously gone on record claiming that the 'Hodag' was analogous to a Spirit of indigenous mythology known as 'Mishipeshu.' – I bring this up as some Television program that cover this topic in past have irresponsibly (& often insensitively.) suggested that Mishipeshu & the Hodag are one and the same thing or seeming to imply that Shepard tried to appropriate the monster. - However, The two creatures are described entirely differently in their respective stories and have very little in common aside from sharing a somewhat similar shiloette. - [Mishipeshu originates from Ojibwe Native myth ranging from near the Great Lakes & up towards Ottowa, it is described as a great panther (or lynx) spirit that has horns like a bull or a deer, and a huge tail made of copper, To my brief understanding: The "spikes" along Mishipeshus back are actually just how they drew fur. The spirit is said to guard the copper in lake superior.] - [Just for the record: Native lore is not my 'specialty' nor is it really my place to recount (apologies if i made any mistakes.) I'm only mentioning it here briefly as a footnote in an attempt to differentiate. - I feel that it's pretty important that the two creatures be categorized differently, and not be conflated!] - Regardless of where the lumbermen might've taken their inspiration from, There's Plenty of room for both 'Hodags' and 'Mishipeshu' to both be celebrated uniquely without saying they're the same thing. :)
• See also: Gowrow, Rhinelapus, Dismal Sauger, 'Hoe-dag', Hugag, Sidehill Gougers, Gyasticus, Babe, Paul Bunyan, Snipe.
Art sticker & article by @samkalensky, part of my 'fearsome critters & cryptids' collection of stickers, I'm planning to draw most of the variants I've listed above, & write extended articles on each, so please do check back sometime and follow @samkalensky for more!
...I'm sure there are many other Hodag variants out there, if you find any reliable news sources on them, send them to: email@example.com