The Hodag is a fictional animal that is part of the folklore of the American state of Wisconsin. Its history and acknowledgement are mainly focused around the city of Rhinelander in northern Wisconsin.
News reports from the time of its discovery by Eugene Shepard in 1893 claimed the hodag 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". Sheperd rounded up a group of local people to capture the animal. The group reported that they needed to use dynamite
to kill the beast. A photograph of the remains of the charred beast was released to the media It was "the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth."
Shepard captured another hodag in 1896, and this one was captured alive. He displayed this hodag at the first Oneida County fair. Thousands of people came to see the hodag at the fair or at Sheperd's display in a shanty at his house, even though Sheperd eventually admitted that the hodag was a hoax.
The Hodag is a sort of unofficial symbol for the region surrounding Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The city's official web site calls Rhinelander "The Home of the Hodag." The Hodag is the Rhinelander High School mascot, and lends its name and image to the Hodag Country Festival, an annual country music festival that is one of Rhinelander's largest community events. It attracts over 40,000 people per year and features singers such as Neal McCoy, Little Big Town, Kellie Pickler, and Reba McEntire.
Hodags in popular culture
The beast has also been adopted as the mascot of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
team, which won its first national championship in 2003 , its second in 2007 , and third in 2008. The team's hodag logo adorns players' uniforms as well as hats, visors and headbands. More than a dozen alumni have hodag tattoos. The team finished second in the nation in 2006, first in the nation in 2007 and 2008, and is regularly one of the top teams in the country.
Other mentions of hodags
- Harold the Hodag is the official mascot of Hoodoo Ski Area near Sisters, Oregon.
- Rhinelander, WI official site about the pursuit of the Hodag hodagsightings.com
- Rhinelander, WI hosts a couple of Hodags RoadsideAmerica.com
- A hodag is or was at the Mall of America's Amusement Park (formerly known as Camp Snoopy)
- Hodag is part of the Monster in My Pocket series.
- Hodag was mentioned on the popular podcast Dawn and Drew.
- The creature is mentioned in chapter 10 of the novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
- Happy the Hodag is a character in a children's book written by Rhinelander Native Jill Kuczmarski
- The Hodag is mentioned in the 1911 book "Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods" by William T. Cox, but is not described here as most other books or articles describe it.
- There is a Hodag Creek in Lolo National Forest in western Montana, although no mention of why it was named such.
The Troop 13 Hodag site is at http://www.bsa13.com/hodag.