In American folklore, a Sidehill gouger is a fearsome critter adapted to living on hillsides by having legs on one side of their body shorter than the legs on the opposite side. This peculiarity allows them to walk on steep hillsides, although only in one direction; when lured or chased into the plain, they are trapped in an endless circular path. The creature is variously known as the Sidehill Dodger, Sidehill Hoofer, Sidehill Ousel, Sidehill Loper, Gyascutus, Sidewinder, Wampus, Gudaphro, Hunkus, Rickaboo Racker, Prock, Gwinter, or Cutter Cuss.
Sidehill gougers are mammals who dwell in hillside burrows, and are occasionally depicted as laying eggs There are usually 6 to 8 pups to a litter. Since the gouger is footed for hillsides, it cannot stand up on level ground. If by accident a gouger falls from a hill, it can easily be captured or starve to death. When a clockwise gouger meets a counter-clockwise gouger, they have to fight to the death since they can only go in one direction. The formation of terracettes has been attributed to gouger activity.
Gougers are said to have migrated to the west from New England, a feat accomplished by a pair of gougers who clung to each other in a fashion comparable to "a pair of drunks going home from town with their longer legs on the outer sides. A Vermont variation is known as the Wampahoofus. It was reported that farmers crossbreed them with their cows so they could graze easily on mountain sides.
Frank C. Whitmore and Nicholas Hotton, in their joint tongue-in-cheek response to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, expounded the taxonomy of sidehill gougers (Membriinequales declivitous), noting in particular "the sidehill dodger, which inhabits the Driftless Area of Wisconsin; the dextrosinistral limb ratio approaches unity although the metapodials on the downhill side are noticeably stouter."
In popular culture
- Sidehill Gougers feature in the MMORPG Villagers & Heroes as mobs. It is depicted as a combination of a cougar and a wolf.
- "Deadhead Mile" (2016) by K.N. Johnson (included in the anthology A Journey of Words) suggest gougers to be the culprits behind ski trails with dead ends.
- Sidehill Gouger (2009) by Canned Games is a puzzle game on Xbox Live for Xbox 360, featuring a young boy hunting the sidehill gougers of his grandfather's stories.
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- Brown, Charles Edward (1935). Paul Bunyan Natural History: Describing the Wild Animals, Birds, Reptiles and Fish of the Big Woods about Paul Bunyan's Old Time Logging Camps. C.E. Brown. p. 5 – via Wisconsin Historical Society.
- Randolph, Vance (1951). We Always Lie to Strangers: Tall Tales from the Ozarks. Columbia University Press. pp. 61–62.
- Kearney, Lake Shore (1928). The Hodag and Other Tales of the Logging Camps. Democrat Printing Company. pp. 34–35.
- Tryon, Henry Harrington (1939). Fearsome Critters. Cornwall, New York: The Idlewild Press. pp. 38–41 – via HathiTrust.
- Wilson, Jackman (12 September 1980). "Study casts doubt on existence of side-hill gougers". Corvallis Gazette Times. 119 (221). Corvallis, Oregon. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
- Eshelman, Ralph E.; Ward, Lauck (1 May 1994). Berta, Analisa; Demere, Thomas A., eds. "Tribute to Frank Clifford Whitmore, Jr". Proceedings of the San Diego Society of Natural History (29): 3–10. ISSN 1059-8707 – via Internet Archive.
- Hotton, Nicholas; Whitmore, Frank C. (1972). "Letters to the editor: Fantastic Animals Prowl the Tall Timber of our Mythology". Smithsonian Magazine. Vol. 3 no. 7. p. 13.
- Johnson, K. N. (1 September 2016). "Deadhead Mile". A Journey of Words. BookBaby. pp. 186–197. ISBN 978-0-9979485-9-2.
- Staff writer (2009). "Sidehill Gouger". Canned Games. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011.
- Dill, Lawrence M. (1983). "Behavioral Genetics of the Sidehill Gouger". In Scherr, George H.; Liebmann-Smith, Richard. The Best of the Journal of Irreproducible Results. New York, N.Y.: Workman. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-0-89480-595-0.