The Hodag is an mythical animal which may have been invented by Gene Shepherd of Rhinelander and Star Lake. Or oral Hodag stories may have been Shepherd's inspiration; there is almost as much mythology involved with the story of the Hodag hoax as with the story of the mythical animal. Green, horned, and snarling, the Hodag would certainly have been a formidable creature had you met it in the woods. Invented by Shepherd, the "captured" specimen was housed in a cave either in Star Lake or in Rhinelander. Many people were fooled, even when they came to the cave to "see" or hear the Hodag. One version has the Smithsonian Institution actually sending a scientist to Wisconsin to look into the phenomenon of the Hodag.
The Hodag survives today as the mascot for the Rhinelander High School athletics teams, and as a standard feature in Rhinelander and Wisconsin tourist promotion.
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The Hodag Increments
"The Hodag Increments" is a play by Michael Skubal of Rhinelander which purports to tell the story of the invention of the Hodag. It premiered at the Green Bay Community Theater in June of 2003, and was produced at Nicolet College in Rhinelander in November of 2003.
Capture of the Hodag
The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin sponsored a 2013 field trip in the Rhinelander area titles "Hunt for the Hodag." The trip description stated, "Adventure awaits! Immerse yourself into the old-growth primeval forest for Holboe Conifer Forest SNA [State Natural Area] to see the location where the fabled Hodag was captured. Venture to an eagle nest to view the young & learn about raptor ecology...."
A "Definition" of the Hodag
A political article in The Progressive defined Hodags as "fictional creatures created to promote tourism in remote northern stretches of Wisconsin" It may be noted that the Hodag predates modern Wisconsin tourism, but it is correct that it is used to promote modern Wisconsin tourism.