Rameses, whose unmistakable Carolina blue horns are a staple at UNC football games, died Thursday evening of natural causes.
The 18th Rameses will be buried at Hogan’s Magnolia View Farm. Every ram has been cared for by the Hogans since it became the University’s official mascot in the 1920s.
The ram was 8 years old, a typical lifespan of the horned dorset breed, said Ann Leonard, one of Rameses’ caretakers. She is the wife of Rob Hogan, a third-generation Rameses keeper who died in 2010.
“People love the ram, he’s a symbol and tradition for the University and for this family,” Leonard said.
To fill the shoes as UNC’s 19th Rameses will be a 2-year-old ram, affectionately called Bam Bam, who lives at Hogan Farm.
Don Basnight, 52, is Hogan’s first cousin and grew up near the farm. He said every ram has its own personality, and that Bam Bam’s may be quite different than the docile Rameses XVIII.
“He’s a feisty little rascal,” he said. “You’re going to have to watch him.”
To prepare for his first public appearances this fall, the Hogan-Leonard family will train Rameses XIX to walk with a lead and interact with people. He’ll get used to being washed and donning his signature painted horns.
Caring for the rams through the years has been a true family effort, and the smiles Rameses brings to the faces of fans has been a significant marker of UNC athletics.
“You can just see people’s eyes glaze over to when they introduce their child to the ram or when they first meet him,” Basnight said. “He’s a celebrity wherever he goes.”
He and other family members, including Leonard and her three sons, have “filled the void” to take care of Rameses after Hogan’s death, Basnight said.
But from the beginning, it’s been a family effort.
Basnight remembers watching over the UNC ram on his grandfather’s farm, sometimes being called to guard the barn on nights before big games.
Today, Basnight takes care of the ram about once per week and takes him to occasional football games or events on Franklin Street.
After being washed and painted, Rameses is loaded up into a truck, sometimes with a few people in the back to wave as the mascot reaches its destination.
Rick Steinbacher, UNC’s associate athletic director for marketing, oversees communication between the athletic department and the Hogan family. For him, Rameses is an integral piece of the college football tradition.
“Come watch a little child or an older fan on game day,” he said. “For many people it’s a part of every single game.”
“We’re very fortunate for the family that has done this for so long and has done such a great job.”
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