The Elite 8: Our Favorite NCAA Animal Mascots
March Madness is upon us, and it's time to stand up for our favorite teams. How do we decide who to cheer for? By who has the best mascot, of course!
From beloved Bulldogs to horses and tigers who might be too big for the basketball court, we've rounded up our eight favorites who made it to the Big Dance — many of them from revered lineages and steeped in decades of rich university tradition. We're betting these cuties will go all the way!
Blue II and III, Butler University
The Butler University Bulldogs are back in the men's NCAA tournament this year, and we couldn't be happier because they have what may be our favorite mascots. Blue III (his real name is Trip), an English Bulldog puppy, just became the official Butler University mascot; he assumed his new role from Blue II during the university's first "Changing of the Collar" ceremony on March 9.
Jack and Jack Jr., Georgetown University
Georgetown University's mascot, Jack the Bulldog, was joined last spring by a new mascot trainee, Bulldog puppy Jack Jr. The university has a long tradition of Bulldog mascots; the first Jack, an English Bulldog, was purchased by students in 1964. He was meant to be called Hoya (after the school's rallying cry of "Hoya Saxa!"), but refused to respond to any name but Jack.
The elder Jack’s favorite pastimes include tearing up cardboard boxes (usually painted with the opposing team’s colors) and riding in golf carts, while Jack Jr. enjoys a good game of tug. We're looking forward to seeing them both courtside.
Tuffy, North Carolina State
We may be partial to the Bulldogs, but that doesn't mean we don't love a good sled dog too. North Carolina State’s moniker is the Wolfpack, but their mascot is a Tamaskan Dog named Tuffy. Tamaskans have been bred to look like wolves, but they are unrelated to the wolf, making them a better choice for game-day activities. The current Tuffy, the university's first live mascot, has been representing NC State since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter for the latest Wolfpack sports news.
Rameses, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The state of North Carolina has two teams in the tourney this year, but only one canine mascot. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is represented by Rameses the Ram. Since he was introduced to the campus at a pep rally in 1924, Rameses, a Bighorn ram, has always sported a monogrammed blanket on his back for school events.
Sadly, Rameses XVIII passed away in early 2012, but thanks to the Hogan family — who has raised the official Rameses for almost a century — Rameses XVIII's adorable son, BamBam, has taken over as UNC's mascot.
CAM the Ram, Colorado State University
Rameses isn't the only big sheep in the big dance. The Colorado State mascot, CAM the Ram, takes his name from the university’s former title: the Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College. The current CAM is a Rambouillet ram; he is also the 22nd ram to serve as the university’s mascot since 1947. CAM travels to sporting events in his own trailer, accompanied by a group of students known as the “Ram Handlers.”
Unfortunately, hooves and hardwood don’t really mix, so don’t expect to see CAM at the NCAA tournament. He and his handlers will be cheering their team on from home.
TOM III, University of Memphis
Speaking of animals who won't be courtside: The University of Memphis Tigers will also be heading to the tournament without their mascot, TOM, a Bengal tiger... for obvious reasons. The first TOM came to Memphis in 1972 and was initially named Shane, but was rechristened TOM (for Tigers of Memphis). TOM I lived until 1992 and grew to more than 600 pounds, making him one of the largest documented captive Bengal tigers. TOM II was the first Memphis Tiger to live in the Tiger Guard, a $300,000 facility built just for the mascot tigers. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.
The current face of Memphis sports is TOM III, a 5-year-old Bengal tiger born in an animal sanctuary in Wisconsin.
Boomer and Sooner, The University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma's Sooner Schooner is a football icon: a Conestoga wagon pulled by two gorgeous white ponies, Boomer and Sooner. The ponies take their names from the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889; boomers were the people who lobbied to have the lands open for settlement, while sooners were settlers who snuck in and (illegally) claimed their stakes early.
Ralphie, The University of Colorado
Boomer and Sooner aren't the only mascots who are too big for basketball: You won’t see Ralphie the Buffalo shooting hoops with the Colorado men’s basketball team (his size gives him an unfair advantage and his hooves would do a number on the court), but there’s no doubt that the University of Colorado’s handsome (and slightly intimidating) mascot is a truly amazing sight to see. And we all know that a big mascot means big spirit!