Go Team! Neigh!: The equine mascots of college football

‘Tis the season for college football. Amanda Smith kicks things off with a roundup of the NCAA’s horsey set.

From Amanda:

As a girl brought up in the southeastern United States, I know that college football is taken pretty freaking seriously here. Every week, from Thursday (first college game of the week) to Sunday (when you can finally get ALL the highlights from ALL the college games), people fly the flag of their Alma Mater with immense pride: on their cars, on their homes… on their face.


Devotion to Your Team is absolutely fierce in the South. Trash talk abounds in the office, in restaurants, and probably in traffic. College football in the South is the Holy of Holies–and there is nothing more sacred than your Mascot.  If you aren’t from the South and you need some good reasons to get jazzed about College Football, here are a few of the awesome equine and equine-related mascots in the NCAA!

(in no particular order… not playing team favorites… I swear!)

  • Murray State and Racer One – Best Use of OTTB as a Mascot!

According to the Murray State Traditions website, “Since 1976, every home-game touchdown is marked by a thoroughbred, nicknamed Racer One, running a celebration lap on the running track around the football field. Violet Cactus was the first horse to fill Racer One’s shoes, and when she died in 1984, she was buried adjacent to the north end-zone at Roy Stewart Stadium, near where Racer One begins its victory lap. A different horse usually performs Racer One’s duties each year, along with a new jockey.” Hip Hip Hoooray! For Murray State and OTTBs!!!

  • University of Wyoming – Cutest. Mascot. EVER.

At Wyoming, the incredibly adorable Cowboy Joe “trots around War Memorial Stadium after each Cowboy touchdown, a tradition which started in 1950 when the Farthing Family of Cheyenne made a generous donation of a young pony to become Wyoming’s mascot.” Cowboy Joe also represents UW in regional parades and enjoys pre-game festivities on gameday in UW’s Tailgate Park.  Cowboy Joe’s handlers are students in UW’s College of Agriculture, so if you were looking for a school with an Ag program that has some neat perks, you might hit the jackpot at UW and get to take care of this little cutie pie! An awesome story about how Cowboy Joe came to being the ’50s  and a cute picture of “two generations” of Cowboy Joes can be found here.


[Wyoming Athletics]

  •  United States Military Academy (USMA) – Most Patriotic/Stubborn Mascot

OK, technically the official mascot of the USMC is “The Black Knights,” but for all their honor and tradition (and, sorry to all my friends who graduated from West Point, stuffiness) none of the cadets actually dress up as a Black Knight. But why would you when you have the strength and dignity of a mule standing on the sidelines? The Army Mules having been making appearances on the sidelines of Army home games since the 1899 (!!) Army-Navy game.  Selected as a sort of one-uppance to the U.S. Naval Academy’s goat, the mule was a natural choice for a mascot because of its long-standing service to military operations with strength and perseverance throughout history.  The Army Mules are trained and cared for by cadet Mule Riders, a part of the Spirit Support Activity of the U.S. Corps of Cadets.

  • Florida State University – Most Fierce Equine Mascot

Disclosure: I, being a complete nerd, was accepted to and graduated from The North Avenue Trade School.  No, we do not have the most fearsome mascot in the world… but we Yellow Jackets are DAMN PROUD of Buzz (he is not a bee, people! NOT A BEE!). My husband’s loyalties, despite having graduated from Tech as well, lay with the Seminoles of Florida State University, who do have a fierce mascot that inspires strength and passion to a massive fan base.  In my eight years of marriage, I have learned that resistance is futile, and I have, in fact, become quite a bit of a FSU fan.  And here is why you should be too…


“Unconquered” statue outside Doak Campbell Stadium. (Yes, that is an actual flame at the end of the spear.) [trekearth.com]

FSU fans take the art of Mascotting (just made that word up) to a new level. Before each home game, Chief Osceola charges out on to the football field, riding the leopard Appaloosa Renegade… bareback… and wielding a flaming spear. Then, as Renegade rears up, the spear is planted midfield to the thunderous roars of 80,000+ fans. No joke. You want to try to ride a horse in there? I don’t. The fact that Renegade knows his job, is focused on it, and allows nothing to phase him is incredible.

Chief Osceola is cool, sure. But Renegade? Renegade is a legit superstar. Much about the equine celebrity is kept close to the vest, including where he is stabled. I did find out that FSU alum Bill Durham–who came up with the idea of Renegade when a student in the 1960s–provides the horses to “Team Renegade” and his family plays an active role in the breeding of the horses, too. Renegade arrives with security in an un-marked rig and trailer and then heads to, basically, a bunker/stall in the stadium for pre-game prep.  The riders/Chief Osceolas must also go through a lengthy and rigorous interview process including a riding evaluation. Once selected, each rider goes through an “apprenticeship” for at least one year, as well. Only the very best horsemanship for Renegade will do, and you have to respect a program that promotes that, and gives an equine such a prominent role in their football program. (Osceola and Renegade are referred to as “the 12th man” on the field and command all the respect that goes along with that).

So maybe I *am* a little biased about Renegade, but I can’t help myself.  It is really hard not to get wrapped up in the theatrics of Renegade’s pre-game performance! And I know there are a lot more equine mascots out there… so let me know if you want more Equine Mascots of the NCAA folks! I’m happy to spend my fall Saturdays doing a little research while I keep an eye on the scoreboards! After I return from the barn, of course.

Go Riding.


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