The Dogs of Fall
or College Dog Mascots
Dec. 4, 2010
A belated Happy Thanksgiving. Okay, it's December and a little late to be writing about fall, but as we speak my Jacksonville State Gamecocks are battling the Wofford Terriers in the second round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. And, since I have football on the brain, this is my chance to combine the sport with all things dog and talk about college doggy mascots.
When I heard that JSU would be playing a team called the Terriers, I was intrigued. What would you guess would be the mascot of a team named the terriers? An Airedale, a Bull Terrier or a Pit Bull—all worthy contenders. Or, perhaps there was some tie-in with the founders of the college and a Scottish Terrier or Irish Terrier would be the choice? I was astounded to discover that the college's choice was a Boston Terrier. After all, this is a breed placed in the AKC's Non-Sporting Group, not the Terrier Group.
Wofford, a small South Carolina college, added an official canine mascot in 2003. She was a Boston bitch named Blitz and became a familiar sight on the sidelines rooting for the players. Soon, she was joined by a back-up mascot named Ayeryel (named after former head football coach Mike Ayers), owned by a former cheerleader. Blitz died unexpectedly in 2008 and Ayeryel stepped in and was dubbed Blitz II.
In these days when the trend seems to be to have students costumed as dogs, I really appreciate those colleges who carry on the tradition of having live mascots. The most popular breed used as a mascot is, hands down, the Bulldog.(Note: If you scroll down on this page only, you may think that I've confined myself to Bulldogs alone. Not so. Be sure to continue to page 2.)
The oldest of all canine college mascots is Handsome Dan who was adopted as a mascot by Yale back in 1889. In those days, the Princeton teams traveled with a tiger cub and Yale felt they needed a mascot, too. One of the players saw a Bulldog outside a blacksmith shop and purchased him for $5. Paraded across the field before games, the Philadelphia Press reported: "a favorite trick was to tell him to 'Speak to Harvard.' He would bark ferociously and work himself into physical contortions of rage never before dreamed of by a dog." Thus, the Dan Dynasty was born and there have now been 16 Handsome Dans.
The most famous of all doggy mascots is another Bulldog, Uga, the ambassador for the University of Georgia. Uga is the first live mascot to grace the cover ofSports Illustrated. He's also been featured in Newsweek and Time. He appeared in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and starred in his own documentary, Best Damn Dog. He's the only live mascot to attend the Heisman Trophy ceremonies where he sported a tuxedo. Herschel Walker, who won that year, said Uga looked better in the tux than he did. He endeared himself to Georgia fans, one year, when he attacked an Auburn player during a game.
There's another thing that makes Uga special. Since 1956, all the Georgia mascots have descended from a single line of white Bulldogs bred by Frank W. Seiler. There have been eight Ugas and no other college mascot is accorded as many privileges. At the beginning of each year, Uga receives his very own student ID card. He attends all University of Georgia games, both at home and away, where he is clad in his own team jersey (fashioned of the same material that the players wear, of course) and a spiked collar. As he struts up and down the sidelines, he takes time out to sit on a block of ice and he travels in his own air-conditioned doghouse. There's an official Uga burial ground at Sanford Stadium where all the Ugas are laid to rest. Before each home game, flowers are laid on their graves.
General, an Uga relative (a nephew of Uga V) is one of two Bulldog mascots at The Citadel. The Citadel had mascots in the past but, by the 1950s, there was no full-time resident Bulldog on campus. That is until the Class of 2003 stepped in. As a permanent gift to the college, the Corps of Cadets raised over $1,000 for the upkeep of the dog and the General was donated to the school in 2003. Soon, he was joined by Boo V. The dogs are regularly seen around campus, where they are cared for by the students and, of course, appear at games, parades and other school functions. The duo have proven so popular that they have now been joined by two huge bronze statues sporting their likeness.
We seem to have a special fondness for Bulldogs in the South and no discussion of mascots would be complete without mention of "Bully" from Mississippi State University. In 1935, the MSU team was floundering and they ordered then coach major Ralph Sasse to go to Memphis, Tennessee and get a Bulldog mascot for them. He returned with Ptolemy and the team defeated Alabama 20-7. It was Ptolemy's brother, Bully, who would become famous on the campus. He traveled with the team to West Point and barked on as MSU defeated Army. The beloved dog was hit by a school bus and the campus was plunged into mourning. Bully lay in state in a glass coffin. The funeral procession extended for more than half a mile as he was taken to the field and buried under the 50 yard line so that his fighting spirit would live on. Since that time, all the MSU mascots have taken the name Bully.
At Louisiana Tech University there's a story—a legend, really—about how the Bulldog became the school's mascot. In 1899, five young men were staying at a boarding house. Returning from class one day, they spotted an old Bulldog sitting under a tree at the edge of the campus. They petted the dog and shared some food with him and then went on their way. The dog followed them but their boarding house had a "no pets" policy. The owner allowed the dog to stay in the kitchen for a single night. That night a fire broke out and the old Bulldog ran into the students' room, barking and ripping the sheets from their beds. Four of the boys escaped, but when they got outside they realized that one student had not made it. The Bulldog charged back into the burning house and the fifth student made it out. Sadly, the Bulldog didn't follow.
The next morning, when the fire was finally out, the young men found the unburned body of the Bulldog who had succumbed to the smoke and heat. They carried the corpse back to the tree and dug a hole to bury the canine hero. They didn't want the dog to lie uncovered so he was wrapped in two of the boy's jackets...one red and one blue.
The story spread around the school and, a year later, when Louisiana Tech started making plans for their first football team, the students were asked to vote on a mascot and school colors. The unanimous choices were the Bulldog and the colors red and blue. The mascots are named "Tech" and they are now up to Tech XX.
Two other Southern colleges have recently added Bulldog mascots. Rocky I is the mascot for the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Two graduates of the college found Rocky I at an animal shelter in Alabama and adopted him. He was donated to the school the next year. He now lives with a math professor.
Samford University, in Birmingham, Alabama, used to have a live Bulldog mascot but abandoned the practice years ago. That was until David and Rhoda Oser contacted the athletic department and volunteered their Bulldog, Oser's Lady Liberty, as a mascot. Libby is now a beloved member of the Samford family.
OTHER BULLDOG MASCOTS
Adrian College (Michigan)
Colonel Rock III
Western Illinois University
Ironclad Tupper I