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US College Mascots

By Staff Writer

Updated April 13, 2021 Updated April 13, 2021

There are many distinctive elements of going to university (or, as they say, ‘college’) in the US – sororities and fraternities, sports, sports, sports, and of course college mascots.

These are closely connected with the sports, sports, sports bit – at most matches you’ll see someone dressed up as college mascots, dancing around and generally encouraging the crowd to reach greater heights of enthusiasm in support for the team.

What kind of ‘thing’ do colleges generally have as their mascot? Well, it varies, from the dignified and symbolic, to the odd and ironic (or just plain rude).

Here are the college mascots of eight of the US’ top universities…

1. MIT: Tim the Beaver

MIT first adopted the beaver as its mascot in 1914, apparently because of the animal’s excellent engineering and tech credentials, and the fact that it’s a true native of North America. California Institute of Technology’s mascot is also a beaver.

2. Yale: Handsome Dan

Not content with the usual person in fancy dress, Yale has since 1889 kept a real bulldog as mascot to its athletics teams (obviously not the same one). The current ‘Handsome Dan’, number 17, took over the role in 2007 and is described as ‘very athletic’.

3. University of Chicago: The Phoenix

Why settle for a real animal as college mascots when you can have a mythical creature? The university’s choice of the phoenix, known for its ability to be ‘reborn from the ashes’, was inspired by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and subsequent rebuilding of the city.

4. Princeton: The Tiger

The tiger officially supplanted Princeton’s original lion mascot in 1911, when the lion statues that had been a gift from Woodrow Wilson were replaced with a pair of tigers. Nothing personal, Woodrow…

5. Columbia University: Roar-ee the Lion

If Princeton doesn’t want lions, Columbia does. This, erm, hugely imaginative name was selected from more than 200 entries in a competition in 2005. Other shortlisted names were Hamilton, Hudson, K.C. and J.J.

6. University of Pennsylvania: The Quaker

Breaking the animal-shaped mold, Penn instead has a person dressed as a Quaker – admittedly better known for pacifism than fighting spirit. Playing the Quaker is apparently a much-coveted role. Candidates must be between 5’10’’and 6’ tall, and have to keep their identity secret until graduation.

7. Cornell University: Big Red Bear

Cornell’s bear mascot began with a series of real bear cubs which were brought to the campus between 1915 and 1939. The university’s sports teams were already known as ‘Big Red’ before this – the red has nothing to do with the bear’s color, which in today’s costume is brown.

8. Stanford University: Tree

That’s right, it’s a dancing tree. While not fully accepted by Stanford as its official mascot, the redwood tree does regularly appear at matches – and on lists of the weirdest/worst college mascots, alongside Dartmouth’s ‘Keggy the Keg’ (also unofficial).

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in April 2021

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