As stout as a bull, with a reptile’s scaly, spiked body, hodags are fierce forest predators hunting along the edges of civilization in the thick woods. Green, gray, and black scales cover the beasts, helping them to blend in amid the underbrush, and sharp spikes stand along their backs and run down their powerful, dangerous tails. Loggers share stories of being followed by hodags and seeing their glowing red eyes in the oppressive darkness of the thick forest. In the wintertime, when snow and ice blankets the region, hodags grow a foul-smelling coat of greasy, dark brown fur, sprouting in tufts from between their scales and helping them blend in with dead vegetation. Males sport large curving spikes on their heads that look like forward-facing horns.
Many believe that hodags are not true-breeding beasts but rather a unique and specific terror that has lived and hunted certain woodlands for ages. Many regional people living near such wildernesses consider hodags a myth, nothing more than the sort of tall tale that is typical of excitable rural folk. Some go so far to use “hodagger” as a derogatory term for the more rustic and simple people working the forests and rivers.
Folklorists say the first hodag rose from the charred remains of an ox sacrificed to cleanse foul spirits. The ritual failed on the seventh day of burning, and this foul beast climbed from the pyre and devoured those performing the rites as a putrid smell spread through the forest like a rancid fog. Superstitious lumberjacks refuse to work when similar fogs hang thick in the woods, even though many who don’t know or don’t care about such tales claim such fogs are perfectly natural or mere swamp gases. The oral tradition passed down from the people living in regions hunted by hodags tells that the name comes from the combination of “horse” and “dog,” two of the beast’s favorite meals.
A typical male hodag measures over 10 feet from the snout to the tip of the tail and 4-1/2 feet at the shoulder, though when they rear back on two legs, they reach far more intimidating heights. Females tend to be a foot or more smaller but are stockier; both male and female hodags weigh around 700 pounds. Female hodags also lack horns.