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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: The Hodag (Historic Marker Erected 1973)

Definition:

Hodag Park, Rhinelander, Oneida County 

This mythical creature is the official symbol of Rhinelander. It was created in 1896 by "Gene" Shepard, Rhinelander pioneer timber cruiser and famous prankster. Shepard claimed to have discovered the animal in the woods near Rice Creek. He "captured" it by blocking the mouth of its den with rocks and rendering it unconscious with a chloroformed sponge on a long pole. Actually fashioned by a skilled woodcarver named Luke Dearney, the original Hodag was seven feet long and thirty inches high, black and hairy, with two horns on its head, twelve horns along its spine, and short powerful legs armed with long claws. For years Shepard exhibited the Hodag at county fairs in a dimly lighted tent, controlling its movements with wires. Many spectators believed the animal was real. Shepard would assure them that he had captured it on "Section 37" and that it ate "nothing but white bulldogs and those only on Sundays."

[Source: McBride, Sarah Davis. History Just Ahead (Madison:WHS, 1999).]

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