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Handsome Dan is the Yale mascot, and like over 200 mascots is represented by a bulldog. But, the legacy of Handsome Dan goes back much farther than simply being a college mascot. Handsome Dan, a role played by 17 bulldogs since 1889 is not only the longest standing live-mascot tradition in college football, but also the oldest live mascot tradition in the world.
The honor of Handsome Dan has passed from one bulldog to the next for 127 years as a dog passes away or retires from his or her role.
So what does it take to go down as one of a very few lucky bulldog’s in the world? These are the requirements for every Handsome Dan:
- The ability to tolerate bands and children. As you will soon see, this is taken seriously and has forced several dogs into early retirement.
- A gut-wrenching and aggressiveness toward the color crimson (Harvard)
- A disdain for tigers (Princeton)
- A self-awareness of cleanliness
Prominent Handsome Dan’s
The following are a few Handsome Dan’s who stand out among the rest. They have either achieved fame, were long standing mascots, or built a legacy for themselves. We start, of course, with the one to lead them all Handsome Dan I, a truly handsome dog.
Handsome Dan I was purchased from a blacksmith in 1889 for $65 and as he was often paraded through campus with his owner Andrew Graves, Handsome Dan soon became adopted as the school’s mascot. His name was truly prophetic as Handsome Dan would go on to win first prize at the Westminster Dog show as well as 30 more first prizes at dog shows across the U.S. and Canada. As a tribute to Dan’s importance in Yale history he was stuffed and now rests in a sealed glass case one of Yale’s trophy rooms at the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.
Handsome Dan X was another show dog who won the best bulldog title at the Cape Cod Kennel Club Conformation Show. He is also credited with leading Yale to its 1960 9-0 season. But, Dan X wasn’t without good breeding. His grandfather was Kippax Fearnought, the famed best in show winner of the 1955 Westminster dog show.
Handsome Dan XII was the only female Handsome Dan in the school’s history. Also known by the name of Bingo she was once nabbed by several Yale college students who took her back to their apartment. As a manhunt soon grew out of control Bingo was returned to her home.
The Short Stay
As mentioned earlier not every bulldog can hold up to the public image of being Handsome Dan. The constant barrage of photographers, loud and obnoxious fans and stadiums, as well as excited kids who want nothing more than to play with their favorite bulldog. The following, after short stints sadly buckled under the pressure.
Handsome Dan III – Morbid fear of large crowds.
Handsome Dan VII – Had difficulty managing his temper and went on to become a watch dog in Florida.
Handsome Dan VIII – Retired after two games due to a fear of large crowds.
Hung Around for the Long Haul
While some bulldogs couldn’t touch the intensity of being Handsome Dan for long, others reveled in the glory and basked in the crowds of onlookers. The following Handsome Dan’s lasted long tenures, several of which retired in old age from their mascot role.
Handsome Dan V was one of the most charismatic bulldogs to play the role. He lasted 7 years in the spotlight before passing away of old age.
Handsome Dan X ironically lasted for ten years as Yale’s mascot with several honors listed above.
Handsome Dan XII lasted 9 years
Handsome Dan XIII was the only bulldog to serve the Handsome Dan role twice. He served 11 years from 1984 to 1995, then came out of retirement to serve an additional year in 1996.
Handsome Dan XV reigned 9 years before passing away from a heart attack.
A New Handsome Dan
Sadly, Handsome Dan XVII “Sherman” named for the Sherman tank passed away on August 11, 2016 just before the college football season kicked off. He has yet to be replaced.