Tuesday, January 15, 2013
A few days ago I noticed news that caused me to do a double-take: Wyoming lawmakers introduced a bill to make the Jackalope their official "state mythical creature." I felt a bit shamed that we South Dakotans hadn't thought of this brilliant idea first. It immediately begged the question: with the Jackalope already claimed, what should South Dakota's state mythical creature be?
I jotted down a few options that came to mind. Something that gently poked fun at the Jackalope seemed the most obvious choice to start with. Thus, my version of the Pheasalope was born. My Pheasalope is a chimera combining the South Dakota state bird: the ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), and the pronghorn (Antilocapra americana). Can it rival the legendary Jackalope in terms of pure hokey kitschiness?
Now, of course mythical creatures aren't bound to any kind of earthly morphological or taxonomic logic, but there are a couple things that I'd like to point out about our old friend, the Jackalope. First, the horns on nearly every Jackalope "reconstruction" I've ever seen are actually deer antlers. But, even if antelope horns were to be applied to a jackrabbit, there's another problem: there are no true antelope native to North America, though the pronghorn is often referred to as such. But I suppose I'm just splitting hares here...I mean hairs.
In keeping with this level of madness (madness!), I chose to use the ring-necked pheasant not just because it's already closely associated with this state, but because it's not native to South Dakota or even North America at all (I confess that despite my neverending complaints about having a non-native species as our state bird, I do have a real soft spot for these beautifully patterned aves). I considered the name "Pheasahorn" but that would've been too accurate. It had to be Pheasalope!
The source by which I first discovered this bit of news was Argus Leader political reporter David Montgomery, who subsequently kindly featured my silly illustration on his blog. Thanks, David! He ended his post with the same question I'll end mine with: any more suggestions for the South Dakota state mythical creature?