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Monday January 30th

The fam behind the ram: How a longstanding tradition has lasted 93 years

<p>Rameses stands in a barn at his "forever home" of Magnolia Farms.&nbsp;</p>
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Rameses stands in a barn at his "forever home" of Magnolia Farms. 

A UNC home football game wouldn't be complete without spotting Rameses munching grass on the sidelines of Kenan Stadium. The Hogan family has been proud to uphold this gameday tradition for the University for the past 93 years.

While Rameses has become an icon for UNC over the years, housing and preparing him for game days is a longstanding tradition in the Hogan family. In 1924, the family purchased a ram mascot to support Jack “The Battering Ram” Merritt, a star football player on the team. Henry Hogan, a lineman on the team, offered his family’s nearby farm as a place to keep and care for the ram.

Under the care of the Hogan family, there have been 20 generations of Rameses.

Ann Leonard, wife of former owner and late Rob Hogan, lives on the farm and said the current iteration of Rameses, Rameses XX, is one of her favorite rams.

“He is very docile and doesn’t seem to mind all the attention he gets and he is very well behaved,” Leonard said. “People kiss him, hug him, look him right in the eyes. A lot of animals would be uncomfortable with that, but he’s been great about it.”

Leonard said Rameses isn’t just loved by humans, he's also close companions with the sheep and goats that he shares the farm with.

“They miss him when he is gone (to football games). They tend to stand at the gate kind of calling for him. It’s very cute,” Leonard said. “When he comes back they all come back to see him. They know he’s been gone and they are waiting for him.”

Members of the Hogan family play different roles in helping out with Rameses' care. Carolyn Hogan has supported the family tradition by sewing the blankets Rameses wears to the games. She estimates she has been sewing his blankets for nearly 60 years.

“There was some sort of blanket, but it was rather pitiful,” Carolyn Hogan said of the blanket Rameses wore before she met the Hogan family. “So I made him one and that started the tradition. Probably every other year he gets a new one.”

She takes pride in making sure the blankets look good on him and will personally go out and take measurements of him, and said his current blanket is one of the best yet.

Don Basnight, a relative of the Hogan family, grew up near the farm and has fond memories of growing up with Rameses.

“Some of my favorite times as a kid was when my cousins and I were asked to guard the ram in case Duke or State or someone wanted to come steal him,” Basnight said. “For an eight-year-old to get to sleep in the barn with instructions to guard the ram from visiting team’s cheerleaders was just a thrill.”

Basnight currently helps with game day activities involving Rameses, which include washing his wool, painting his horns and driving him to campus where fans can meet him at Tar Heel Town.

Rameses is adored by all age groups and even fans from opposing teams, he said.

“Some of the younger kids are afraid to come touch him,” he said. “College kids are all about hugging and taking pictures with him.”

Basnight and his family feel honored to be a part of the university tradition and the joy it brings to people.

“Most mascots are just a student in a suit. Rameses is different,” Basnight said. “That animal is really adored by the Tar Heel Nation.”

city@dailytarheel.com

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