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Hodag "captured" by Eugene Shepard, 1893

The Hodag is a folkloric animal of the American state of Wisconsin. Its history is focused mainly around the city of Rhinelander in northern Wisconsin.


In 1893 newspapers reported the discovery of a Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It 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". The reports were instigated by well-known Wisconsin timber cruiser and prankster Eugene Shepard, who rounded up a group of local people to capture the animal. The group reported that they needed to use dynamite to kill the beast.[1] 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. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs became scarce in the area."[1]

Shepard claimed to have 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 Shepard's display in a shanty at his house, even though Shepard eventually admitted that the Hodag was a hoax.[1]

The Hodag became the official symbol of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, is the mascot of Rhinelander High School, and lends its name to numerous Rhinelander area businesses and organizations. The city of Rhinelander's web site calls Rhinelander "The Home of the Hodag."[2] A larger-than-life fiberglass sculpture of the Hodag, created by local artist Tracy Ehmann, resides on the grounds of the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce. The Hodag also 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.

Happy the Hodag is a character that was created for children in 2006 by author and illustrator Jill Kuczmarski. Happy stars in Tales From The Trees and A Monster Misunderstanding, two children's books that explore the traditional Hodag legend in a fun and friendly format.

There is also a Hodag Creek in Lolo National Forest in western Montana, although no mention of why it was named such.[3]

Hoodoo Ski Area near Sisters, Oregon, uses a hodag as its mascot. Harold the Hodag is featured in advertising and television commercials for the ski resort.[4]


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