On the Trail of the Jackalope: How a Legend Captured the World's Imagination and Helped Us Cure Cancer (Hardcover)

On the Trail of the Jackalope: How a Legend Captured the World's Imagination and Helped Us Cure Cancer By Michael P. Branch Cover Image
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The never-before-told story of the horned rabbit—the myths, the hoaxes, the very real scientific breakthrough it inspired—and how it became a cultural touchstone of the American West.

Just what is a jackalope? Purported to be part jackrabbit and part antelope, the jackalope began as a local joke concocted by two young brothers in a small Wyoming town during the Great Depression. Their creation quickly spread around the U.S., where it now regularly appears as innumerable forms of kitsch—wall mounts, postcards, keychains, coffee mugs, shot glasses, and so on. A vast body of folk narratives has carried the jackalope’s fame around the world to inspire art, music, film, even erotica! 
Although the jackalope is an invention of the imagination, it is nevertheless connected to actual horned rabbits, which exist in nature and have for centuries been collected and studied by naturalists. Around the time the two young boys were creating the first jackalope in Wyoming, Dr. Richard Shope was making his first breakthrough about the cause of the horns: a virus. When the virus that causes rabbits to grow “horns” (a keratinous carcinoma) was first genetically sequenced in 1984, oncologists were able to use that genetic information to make remarkable, field-changing advances in the development of anti-viral cancer therapies. The most important of these is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cervical and other cancers. Today, jackalopes are literally helping us cure cancer.
For fans of David Quammen’s The Song of the Dodo, Jon Mooallem’s Wild Ones, or Jeff Meldrum's Sasquatch, Michael P. Branch's remarkable On the Trail of the Jackalope is an entertaining and enlightening road trip through the heart of America.

About the Author

Michael P. Branch is a professor of literature and environment at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he teaches creative nonfiction, American literature, environmental studies, and film studies. An award-winning writer and humorist, Michael is the author of How to Cuss in Western and lives with his wife and two daughters in the western Great Basin Desert, on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Range.

Praise For…

“Enjoy the thrill of going down this captivating rabbit hole, as we follow our engaging narrator as he learns everything there is to learn about the mythic jackalope. Branch's brilliant book is a wild ride, told with the lively wit of the tall-tale tellers he admires. On the Trail of the Jackalope [or just "This book"] shows us how this fascinating embodiment of western kitsch is connected to the identity of a small Wyoming town, the American folk tradition, Looney Tunes, mythology, taxidermy, cancer research, and even death itself. Sit back as Branch spins his tale, and listen, learn, enjoy, and laugh.”

— David Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner and the American West

“I came to this book for jackalope gossip and lore, of which there is plenty. But what kept me turning the pages is Michael Branch’s smart, raucous discussions of tall folktales, elaborate hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and fanciful acts of taxidermy.  On the Trail of the Jackalope is filled with examples of how we humans delight in fusing the facts of our natural world with utter fancies. A delightful read.”

— Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses

“Equal parts travelogue, natural history, and tall tale, Michael Branch’s On The Trail of the Jackalope is a hare-raising account of America’s most beloved hoax. Branch’s expansive investigation takes readers from basement taxidermy studios and dusty saloons to cryptozoology meetings and sophisticated virology labs. Best of all, his masterful wit and engaging prose ensure we all get to ride shot-gun on this fantabulous adventure. I wanted it to never end.”
— Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland and Trailed: One’s Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders

"I've longed for this book all my life. The ultimate prize in the souvenir shops of my Colorado boyhood was the Jackalope, but for all my wheedling, I never got closer to owning one than a postcard. Now I feel all that longing has been richly requited by this brilliant natural history. I have seldom said about a book that it NEEDED to be written, but this one absolutely did! Stunningly researched and lived, lovely in its conception and writing, Branch's Trail is all of what he aimed for and more: an unforgettable journey along "the mighty, rolling river of Jackalopiana."
— Robert Michael Pyle, author of Magdalena Mountain and Nature Matrix

"In this charming travelogue, Branch recounts his tracking down of various jackalope tall tales and the roots of such hoaxes and our fascination with them. He ends with the amazing true story of the discovery of the role of a virus in actual naturally occurring “horned rabbits,” and how this led to the creation of the vaccine for human papillomavirus."
— Booklist

“Mr. Branch knows at least as much about jackalopes as Einstein knew about physics. In On the Trail of the Jackalope, Mr. Branch digs deep into rabbit lore, hailing celebrity hares like Bugs Bunny and the more obscure Centzon Totochtin of Aztec tradition—‘a group of divine rabbits who gathered frequently to throw drunken parties.’ More important, he reveals that the jackalope of American folklore (or inspired hucksterism) has a real-life counterpart—the hornéd rabbit, a creature with protrusions that can resemble antlers. Mr. Branch has a good deal to say about one of nature’s stranger animals and also deeply ponders the mythological form, wondering why people dream up jackalopes and other fanciful creatures in the first place."
— Dave Shiflett

"On the Trail of the Jackalope is a marvelous romp in two stellar literary genres: American tall tales and the history of medicine. Even if jackalopes are a hoax, jackalope history is well worth exploring and Mr. Branch had a high time doing so. Just as brightly as the first half of the book shines with charm and good yarns, the second half impresses with excellent reporting on the history of medicine and the development of an anti-cancer vaccine. I highly recommend On the Trail of the Jackalope. It’s an excellent collection of well-told yarns and a fine piece of medical history reporting.” 
— Rebecca Coffey
Product Details
ISBN: 9781643139333
ISBN-10: 1643139339
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: March 1st, 2022
Pages: 304
Language: English

How to read more

( Birmingham Museums Trust’s Digital Image Resource shares thousands of images that span decades of Birminghams vibrant past)

How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.


And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.


15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.


50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.


Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.


Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.


Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.



Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.


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