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 Ousel, Sidehill Loper, Gyascutus, Sidewinder, Wampus, Gudaphro, Hunkus, Rickaboo Racker, Prock, Gwinter, or Cutter Cuss.
Sidehill gougers are herbivorous 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.
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. There is also a similar mythical creature in France known as the dahu.
Frank C. Whitmore and Nicholas Hotton, in their joint tongue-in-cheek response to an article "Fantastic Animals" (Smithsonian Magazine, 1972), 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.
- Sidehill Gougers are mentioned in the short story "Deadhead Mile" by K.N. Johnson in the anthology A Journey of Words. They are suggested to be the culprits behind ski trails with dead ends.
- Brown, C.E. Paul Bunyan Natural History. (Madison: self-published, 1935.)
- Randolph, Vance. We Always Lie to Strangers: Tall Tales from the Ozarks. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951.)
- Tryon, Henry Harrington. Fearsome Critters. (Cornwall, New York: Idlewild Press, 1939)
- Ralph E. Eshelman, "Tribute to Frank Clifford Whitmore, Jr." in: A. Berta and T. A. Demere (eds.) Contributions in Marine Mammal Paleontology Honoring Frank C. Whitmore Jr. Proc. San Diego Soc. Nat. Hist. 29:3-10, 1994
- Hotton. N. and Whitmore. F. C, Jr. 1972. Letters to the editor: Fantastic Animals. Smithsonian Magazine 3 (7): 13.
- Dill, Lawrence M. (1983). "Behavioral Genetics of the Sidehill Gouger". In George H. Scherr, editor; Richard Liebmann-Smith, associate editor. The Best of the Journal of Irreproducible Results. New York: Workman. pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-89480-595-9.