Jack Rabbit

If you didn’t think much of the history of the city of Odessa, prepare for a surprise. Odessa, TX is home to the world’s largest collection of jackrabbit sculptures. To support local arts and encourage discovery of the city, the Chamber of Commerce in Odessa offers visitors the opportunity to collect a prize for checking in at 16 of the 31 uniquely painted jackrabbit sculptures. You must first download the exclusive passport that showcases the various jackrabbits throughout the city then you can begin searching for them. Make sure you check in at each one you visit so it can count towards your prize.

These jackrabbits all possess their own names that are unique to the paintings featured on them. Some of these include “What’s Up Doc,’ a red and white jackrabbit located at the entrance of the Texas Tech University’s Health and Sciences Center, “Uncle Sam Rabbit”, sporting red and white stripes as well as blue and white stars located in front of the Bank of America building, and “Money Bunny”, including symbols featured on United States currency and located outside of the Chase Bank building. There are plenty more sightly jackrabbits to be seen throughout the city.

Before the construction of the massive 14.5 tall jackrabbit sculpture made from four large elm trees in 2017 that is located in Ralls, TX, the “world’s largest jackrabbit” was located in Odessa. This statue was built in 1962 and was given the name “Jack Ben Rabbit” after the president of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce at the time John Ben Shepperd because he is the man responsible for the idea. This statue was built in order to pay tribute to Odessa’s history of jackrabbit roping in their annual jackrabbit roping competition which was outlawed in 1978 by the Humane Society.

For years the jackrabbit was displayed at Prairie Pete Park, then moved into storage at a maintenance yard. This was until the public community began causing a fuss to have it put back out for public consumption. The new location of the jackrabbit is downtown in front of the Ector County Independent School District’s Administration Building where it is now deadbolted to the sidewalk due to an attempt to steal the statue that took place in 1997.

The statue is located between two historical markers. The first one offers a description of and some history regarding the animal, as well as a comical recipe for jackrabbit and dumplings. The other marker showcases the history of the town’s jackrabbit roping competition including details about the first competition held. As an interesting tidbit, the winner of the first jackrabbit roping competition was cowgirl Grace Hendricks, who roped her jackrabbit in five seconds flat placing her far ahead of the numerous male competitors in the competition.

According to one of the historical markers that accompanies the jackrabbit, the city’s jackrabbit roping competition began in 1932 as a “hare brained” attempt as a publicity stunt. There was opposition from out-of-towners as well as the local sheriff, but the mayor and judge were in favor of the event as they found no violation of Texas law.
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Map from Jack Rabbit to Permian Basin Petroleum Museum: