The Hodag is a mythical creature from American folklore, particularly associated with the state of Wisconsin.

Artwork of the Hodag, with its fierce claws and spiny back, emerging from the woods

Physical characteristics

Reptilian Head: The Hodag is often depicted with a head resembling that of a frog or reptile.

Elephant-Like Face: Some descriptions include an elephant-like face on the Hodag, with large ears and a trunk-like snout.

Horns: One of the most distinctive features of the Hodag is the presence of multiple horns. These horns are often described as curved or pointed and are located on the creature’s head.

Spiked Back: The Hodag is said to have a row of spikes or spines along its back.

Dinosaur-Like Body: The body of the Hodag is sometimes described as having a dinosaur-like form.

Tail: While not always emphasized, some depictions of the Hodag include a tail, which may be short or long, depending on the source.


The origin of the Hodag can be traced back to a hoax created by Eugene Shepard in the late 19th century. Eugene Shepard was a well-known land surveyor and timber cruiser from Rhinelander, Wisconsin. In 1893, Shepard claimed to have discovered the Hodag in the woods near Rhinelander, describing it as a fearsome and fantastical creature with a combination of reptilian and mammalian features.

Shepard’s account of capturing the Hodag involved the use of dynamite, chloroform, and other means to subdue the creature. He later displayed the supposed Hodag at the Oneida County Fair, attracting widespread attention. However, it was eventually revealed that Shepard’s Hodag was a cleverly constructed hoax made from a bull’s head, ox hides, and other materials.

Despite being exposed as a fabrication, the legend of the Hodag persisted and became a part of local folklore in Rhinelander. Instead of fading away, the mythical creature took on a life of its own, and the image of the Hodag has since been embraced by the community. The creature is now featured in local events, businesses, and as the mascot for Rhinelander High School.

Hodag in a forest clearing, an embodiment of regional folklore

powers and abilities

While the Hodag itself is not associated with magical or supernatural abilities, the story surrounding it highlights the power of imagination and storytelling in shaping local folklore.

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