Town gator.

Ole Hardhide: Town Gator in a Cage

Field review by the editors.

Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Ponchatoula likes to be known as the Strawberry Capital of the World, and claims to fly the World's Largest American Flag from a Pole. But it's best known to tourists as the home of Ole Hardhide, the community's mascot alligator, who lives in the heart of downtown.

Town gator cage.

Ole Hardhide debuted as an attraction in 1972, when he lived in a fenced pool outside the Ponchatoula Dairy Treat. Alligators at the time were an uncommon sight (they were added to the Endangered Species List in 1973), and Ole Hardhide's popularity prompted Ponchatoula's mayor to adopt the toothy ambassador, then move him to the center of town, where he lived in a custom-built cage. He quickly became Ponchatoula's civic celebrity, and when he "went to the eternal swamp" in 1985, according to a bronze plaque on the cage, Ole Hardhide was given a funeral attended by several thousand people. "His coffin was carried on a horse-drawn wagon to his resting place south of the city as a Louisiana jazz band played appropriate tunes."

Ole Hardhide's death did not end his role as mascot for Ponchatoula. An unbroken succession of replacement "Ole Hardhides" have lived in the gator cage ever since.

The city's commitment to Ole Hardhide was manifest in 2012, when it completely refurbished his living quarters and added local Louisiana plants, a shaded roof, and a sprinkler system. Coins tossed into Ole Hardhide's cage are collected and deposited in a bank account in his name, and he is kept fat and happy on a regular diet of chicken meat.

Despite his role as city ambassador, and the minimal demands placed on him by his adoring fans, Ole Hardhide does need a break every now and then, and he may be out of sight at the bottom of his swamp pool if you if you visit on a hot summer afternoon.

Ole Hardhide: Town Gator in a Cage

Pine St., Ponchatoula, LA
I-55 exit 26. Drive east on Hwy 22 into downtown. On the left (north) side of Hwy 22/Pine St., at the train tracks, between NE and NW Railroad Aves.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Giant StrawberryGiant Strawberry, Ponchatoula, LA - < 1 mi.
Dr. Charles Smith African-American Heritage MuseumDr. Charles Smith African-American Heritage Museum, Hammond, LA - 4 mi.
World's Largest Ronald Reagan StatueWorld's Largest Ronald Reagan Statue, Covington, LA - 21 mi.
In the region:
Scary Pelican in Front Yard, Metairie, LA - 35 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Louisiana

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Louisiana.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Map and Plan Your Own Roadside Adventure ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Louisiana Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Nutcrackers of Luverne, Luverne, Minnesota (Nov 28-Dec 4, 2022)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Favorite Quirky City Sights