Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Life and Afterlife of Handsome Dan

Please allow me to introduce to you Handsome Dan, an English bulldog that Yale adopted in 1889 as their mascot.  Here is a picture of him taken during the 1890s:

And here is a picture I took of him today:

Yes, the dog in the picture is the same dog that thrilled Yale supporters in the nineteenth century by running across the football or baseball field before a game.  He has been stuffed, mounted, and placed in the trophy case of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium, as if protecting the athletic treasures of the Yale athletic department.

Not only was Handsome Dan the first live college mascot and the winner of Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show, he also inspired Cole Porter to write the first ever college fight song, "Bulldog, Bulldog," which is the Yale fight song to this day.

Handsome Dan died in 1898, and Yale was without a mascot for 35 years.  Then, in 1933, Yale adopted another English bulldog, named it Handsome Dan II, and used it as the mascot.  Handsome Dan II's career was not as sanguine as his predecessor's, though.  He was kidnapped by Harvard College  in 1934 and later died of a broken leg.  Handsome Dan II is stuffed and on display at the Yale visitor's center.

Handsome Dan III followed, but he was afraid of crowds and had to be retired.

Handsome Dan IV was hit by a car and, though he was not killed, he could not fulfill his duties.

Yale's current mascot, Handsome Dan XVII, has served since 2007 and seems to be following in the competent capacity of the original mascot.  Though only three years old, he has already raised thousands of dollars for charity.


I found Handsome Dan II today in the Yale Visitors' Center.  Here is his picture.

Handsome Dan II (1933-1937).