"Flying Jackalope" aka "Phesalope" - [Fearsome Critter, South Dakota] • Latin name: "Jackalopesis-Pheasantarus."
• About this critter: A feathered variant of Jackalope said to be native to the Badlands of South Dakota. - Incredibly shy, capable of soaring at blinding speeds up to 5000ft to avoid detection from hunters, their milk is said to be particularly rich in vitamins, more so than regular jackalope milk, beer or watermelons! - The bucks fly and have horns for defence, the females do neither. They lay an egg, only one, every 3 years. (part of why this variety might be so rare...) aside from that its as usual for jackalope, they're also said to sing along with cowboys usually assuming the part of tenor bass!
• History: The earliest newspaper mention of the 'Flying Jackalope' on record seems to be published in the Phantagraph, Wednesday, February 23, 1977 where in a delighted doughnut shop owner from Tremont Illinois, buys a flying jackalope from South Dakota for $100. - The article humorously goes on about how the flying feathered jackalopes milk is especially rich in vitamins, and how they sing along to cowboy tunes, the article ends mentioning snipe hunts.
[note the feet! - Phantagraph, Wednesday, February 23, 1977]
I delved a bit deeper on newspapers.com, I seems that that unlike the original jackalope (who as I covered earlier's origins are often somewhat murky.) The original 'Flying Jackalopes' were more than likely invented by one "Rusty Buckas" a taxidermist from Rapid City, South Dakota. - Who had been making them since 1968, he was interviewed twice, once in 1999 & once in 2000, Rusty owned the largest jackalope manufacturing shop at the time, and his specalty was 'flying jackalopes' he simply took jack rabbits from the local farms, stuck ceramic antlers on their heads and glued the tails of ring necked pheasants on the back, often giving them a cute chicken like, fluffy body. - (Ring necked pheasants, had then only recently become the national bird of South Dakota in the 40s so It just makes sense!) - These flying jackalopes sold very well and he seemingly made hundreds of them:
[Russ and his impressive flock! - Russ "Rusty" Backus says he started building them 30 years prior, beginning in 1968. (in which case, Russ is quite likely the origin to the one up top!!) - From
Rapid City, South Dakota ] Sunday, June 20, 1999
-His craft was apparently pretty convincing at the time as Backus told papers that at one point the officials in England had opened a jackalope parcel of his which was entering the country, they believed to be an endangered species and called US customs, who called the Fish and wildlife service, who called local agents (who where fortunately friends of Backus) they staged a mock arrest!!
[ Rapid City, South Dakota ] Sunday, December 17, 2000
Today, Rustys taxidermy business is still open? (Sadly the long distance charges would be too pricy for me to call) There is sadly no way to get in contact with the business other than phone! - so, I'm unsure if Russ managed to sell his business, if he still operates it, or If these 'Phesalopes' are still available or manufactured by anyone today, if his family took over the business, reguardless there seems to be very little about the man online or in any books I could find. The interview in 2000 seems to imply his retirement.]
[a vintage postcard & back description featuring a flying jackalope found on eBay, printing dated 1984 Dakotaland Postcards & Souvenirs, Inc. Mitchell.]
Sadly the Flying Jackalope is only ever mentioned in books whenever the regular Jackalope comes up & even then theres little in the ways of lore. Fortunately, Several Postcards of the "flying jackalope" where printed from the 80s onwards, most notably they are used in ads & merch, for South Dakotas Walls Drug Store during the late 70s through early 80s. (Sadly the store seems to have forgotten the Phesalope in their modern merchandise catalogue, in favor of leaning hard into the usual variety of Jackalope. a bit of a shame, I wouldnt be suprised if this is because theres very little written about Rusty & his work out there.)
Though you CAN buy an souvenir 'Jackalope Hunting Permit' for South Dakota territory. - (a bit less "official" than the government approved licences available in Wyoming.) apparently in South Dakota you must only hunt the jackalopes at altitudes of 5000 ft (or above) and only at night, June through October during the 3 nights prior to the full moon! - (Though it sadly does not feature or use the flying jackalope by name, we can assume the altitude in which they're hunted is a nod towards this fairly obscure bit of folklore.)
[a novelty sand timer paper weight, (without sand?) found on eBay]
A few papers and publications from the Time, rip on the the flying jackalopes, saying that they where "Tacky or in Bad taste", but these papers and books obviously have no clue what they're talking about, they're adorable!!!
In this character designers opinion: Rusty's phesalope design was great, but It maybe it could have used a few more "pheasanty" colours mixed in there (but not too many) when I tried to add the "pheasants red crown", it felt like It was "too far" so, I'd say Rusty was definitely on the right track! - My version remained brown-grey but with a green cowlick hairstyle like the ones pheasants sometimes have, I decided the rainbow ish-tail was nice to include because snipes where mentioned.)
...beyond that the 'flying jackalope' is sadly mentioned only as an after thought in a few publications on the subject of Jackalope, never in a bestiary (until today, I suppose!) ...otherwise these days "flying jackalope" tend to be drawn or made as a just regular four legged rabbit with wings tacked on there. (kinda boring & very easily mistaken as an "American version" of Germanys, Worpletinger or Swedish, Skvader.)
Sticker art & article by @samkalensky part of my fearsome critters collection of stickers, check my shop and follow me for many more :)