The newest Bigfoot-related story making the rounds on the social media newsfeeds lately is the Assquatch – a taxidermy creation using the hindquarters of a deer (anus and all, apparently) to make Sasquatch faces. Some are cute, and some are downright disturbing. But this is far from the first cryptid to be created from actual animal parts. American folklore is rife with tall tales of bizarre creatures allegedly “discovered” in the wild frontier of the blossoming country. Perhaps the most well-known is the jackalope, a weird hybrid between a jackrabbit and an antelope, and most recently feature in a Lunchables commercial. Looking very much like your standard jackrabbit, but with antelope antlers, the jackalope was created in 1932 by Douglas Herrick and his brother, when after a hunting trip, they laid down a jackalope carcass near some deer antlers, sparking their imaginations to create the mythical creature.
Before the jackalope, the Hodag was a fearsome beast that was reported to have been born from the ashes of a cremated oxen, and having bull-like horns and sharp, curved spines along its back. The Hodag also featured in many Paul Bunyan stories. In 1893, newspapers in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, reported that land surveyor (and known prankster) Eugene Shephard actually manged to capture and kill the beast, with accompanying photographs and all. The critter apparently 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.” However, the proof of the Hodag was short-lived, as once the Smithsonian Institution announced they’d be traveling to Rhinelander to inspect the carcass, Shephard was forced to admit that he had hoaxed the whole thing. More creative taxidermy.
Predating even the Hodag is one of my favorite taxidermy creations, the Jenny Haniver. Created by modifying the corpse of a skate or ray, a Jenny Haniver is a frightening creature, with an anguished face and looking like it came right out of a horror movie. Of course, it’s just a common ray, mummified and butchered to look monstrous. As a kid, this was one of the first things I remember reading about in one of my Encyclopedia of Monsters-type books (and it may have even been that exact book!).
But if you have ever wondered how you can use a deer’s anus to make fun and interesting art pieces, read on…
Sometimes, when Pat Morrin has people over, a certain taxidermied creation—one with a big beard, brooding eyes, and a jutting snout—tends to catch the eye of his company.
“What is that thing,” they’ll ask the taxidermy collector and brocker, looking the creature up and down. From here, Morrin typically launches into a winding tale regarding a since-extinct monkey from the Louisiana swamp—a rare creature known as a swamp booger. “Oh wow,” they respond, “really?”
“Nah,” he’ll say. “It’s a deer’s asshole.”
And indeed it is—what they’re looking at is, to put it frankly, an anthropomorphized deer butt, also known as assquatches and they are spectacular. They fall into a realm of a folk art known as gaff taxidermy—the creation of mythical creatures out of other, real, animals —think of a jackalope or the Fiji mermaid. And much like the mighty jackalope, explains taxidermist Ryan Biracree who runs Black Bears on Bath Salts, the original creator of the assquatch isn’t known.
“Like so many monumental achievements, it began with an overabundance of butts,” Biracree told VICE. “Taxidermists, as a rule, hate to see parts of an animal go to waste. The front halves of deer are in high demand, but the junk in their trunks would routinely go to the dump if there wasn’t a creative outlet for them.
“I don’t know what visionary taxidermist invented the swamp booger; probably, like the creator of the first jackalope, they’ll be nameless but often-imitated.”
Making deer butts into monkeys or aliens or sasquatches isn’t new, it’s been around for some time, half a century at the least. While the typical ass to use is that of a deer, there are exceptions. Biracree said the best thing he’s created from a bum was an “opossum rump, with its long tail as a sort of Pinocchio.”
They’re rare creations but not the rarest Morris told VICE—the creations are out there but you usually have to scour Craigslist or eBay to find one and if you do they’ll run you a couple hundred bones. Morris, who has sold a collection of assquatches, said that they’re not really popular among household collectors but more so among dive bars and tattoo parlours where they can live out their shock value potential and serve as a conversation piece. So if you want one, you can get one but it might take some work.
Or you can create your own.
Like an ass-obsessed Victor Frankenstein—you essentially take a deer rump, flip it upside down and make a monster out of it. Not much has been written about assquatches but luckily for us, one kindly soul decided to create a how-to guide for creating them in 2006. In it, the guide gives you tips like using a nifty little tool called a “butt out” which ties off the butthole from both the outside and inside.
“Many people say that the real redneck art is the shaping of the deer anus to look like a mouth,” reads the blog by Don Burleson. “This is the true test of the artist’s loving hand.”
Another taxidermist, Rickey Durham of White Tails Unlimited (who creates the assquatches Morris sells) agreed with this assessment to VICE saying, “Yes, the butthole mouth is the hardest part because you have to form lips out of putty and then cut the butthole to fit the lips you have formed, then add the teeth.”
However, this has been co-opted and mainstreamed by big taxidermy. Biracree, in explaining the process a little more in-depth to VICE, said that there’s no “particular trick to making them.” These days you essentially can buy a stock head (typically an imitation chimpanzee head with a wolf jaw set, and reptile or canine eyes,) and from here you will fit the rump hide over the mount and create it from there. This is why, Biracree said, they tend to “more or less all look the same these days.”
However, somewhere out there, there exists true deer butthole artists who still create assquatches and swamp boogers by hand. This, Biracree says, is where assquatches exist in their truest form—by the careful eye of a creative taxidermist. The best he’s ever seen “used antique glass eyes meant to illustrate the effects of cataracts in people, an actual set of human teeth, and someone’s shaved off dreads.”
“For the real folk art stuff you need to see some of the truly bizarre handmade ones,” he told VICE. “They were an outlet for a taxidermist’s weird creativity, a place to have a little personality for a craftsperson who’s used to striving for fidelity to the animal, for the illusion that nothing artificial has been done.”
It’s good to see that some traditions never die. Some of these look pretty cool. Just not sure I could ever get into having a deer anus hanging on my wall.