We know how seriously sport is taken at American colleges, but their weird and wonderful team mascots sometimes go unnoticed.
Here are just a few of the most outlandish mascots.
The Purple Cow, Williams College (pictured above)
The only NCAA Division III mascot to appear in an ESPN College Football Game Day commercial, the Purple Cow was voted in by the student body in 1907. The colour purple has interesting origins. Winston Churchill’s mother was one of two women who presented purple rosettes to the members of the baseball team ahead of their 1865 match against Harvard, and it has been the college’s official hue ever since. The cow element of the mascot is thought to have been inspired by the student magazine The Purple Cow, which was popular in the early 20th century.
Sooner Schooner, University of Oklahoma
First appearing in a football game back in 1964, this horse-drawn carriage is a replica of the wagons used by settlers of the Oklahoma territory back in the 19th century. The wagon is pulled along by two white ponies named Boomer and Sooner and driven by the university’s all-male spirit squad, RUF/NEKS. The Schooner is driven on to the pitch after every score during home football games.
The Stanford Tree, Stanford University
Despite not being an official mascot, the Stanford Tree has come to represent the university since its first appearance in 1975. The Tree is said to represent El Palo Alto, the Redwood tree that is the official symbol of Palo Alto, California, where Stanford is situated. The tree also features on Stanford’s official seal. With a new costume made each year, the Tree often features colourful leaves, a cartoon-like smile and googly eyes.
The Fighting Okra, Delta State University
Famous thanks to its TV appearance on the Food Network channel, the Fighting Okra was voted in as Delta State’s unofficial mascot by students in the 1990s. The okra has a fierce expression and is equipped with boxing gloves, adding to its formidable exterior. A popular myth claims that the Fighting Okra was inspired by a stubborn okra plant near first base on the baseball pitch that kept growing back despite being continually cut.
The Banana Slug Mascot, University of California, Santa Cruz
Starting as an unofficial mascot since the founding of the University of California, Santa Cruz, the Banana Slug was voted the university’s official mascot by students in 1986. The mascot is so popular that Santa Cruz City Council declared 27 September 2011 the official day of the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug. For anyone wondering, a banana slug is a bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusc that lives on the redwood forest floor. Quite how it came to be the university’s mascot remains a mystery.
Otto the Orange, Syracuse University
This bright orange mascot is dressed in blue hat and trousers and was officially recognised as the university’s mascot in 1995. It replaced the original Syracuse mascot, The Saltine Warrior, a Native American character that was discontinued in 1978 amid concerns about its stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans. Otto the Orange’s popularity is greatly aided by his presence on social media, as he regularly posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Rocky the Rocket, University of Toledo
Born on 20 October 1966, Rocky the Rocket is a 5’9’’ football fan. The first ever Rocky costume was made by a seamstress in the theatre department, complete with a papier-mâché tip attached to a wastepaper bin to depict the top of a rocket. Rocky’s costume reached new heights in 1977 thanks to the donation of an authentic space suit, helmet and boots by the NASA Space Center.
Artie the Artichoke, Scottsdale Community College
Artie was voted in by students in 1972, beating other mascot candidates the Rutabaga and the Scoundrel. However, the Artichoke’s future hung in the balance when the dismayed athletics department called for a second election because of the low turnout (11 per cent). In the end, Artie won this election and went on to become a popular campus figure.
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