This fall, SBLive Sports pitted some of the country’s most unusual high school mascots against each other for its “Best Mascot in America” contest, and the winner hails from Wisconsin’s Northwoods.


After narrowly beating the Wyverns in the preliminary Mythical Creatures Bracket, the Rhinelander Hodag cruised to a decisive victory in the championship round, topping Idaho’s Shelley Russet by a margin of 183,455 votes to 72,502.


So what is a Hodag?

Good question! The mythical creature, featured prominently in early Paul Bunyan tales, is a large bull-horned carnivore with a row of thick curved spines down its back. It has strong ties to the city of Rhinelander, which claims to have discovered it. 

“Hodags are not only our high school mascot, but a symbol of our community,” Kerry Bloedorn, director and curator of Rhinelander’s Historical Complex told SBLive. “Hodags have been around for 130 years in Rhinelander, and everywhere you go in our town, you will find its image: statues, murals, businesses, etc.”

“Once a Hodag, always a Hodag,” he added.