A new era in UNC live mascot history is coming to Chapel Hill with the retirement of Rameses XXI, as a new ram prepares to make his appearance as Rameses XXII.
For now, the new ram goes by Otis until he takes on the official title of Rameses XXII. He was supposed to make his debut to the community this fall before COVID-19 prevented it.
Don Basnight, one of the ram's caretakers, said they have decided not to do any outings with Otis during this time because his painted horns will attract crowds.
“We may find things to do this year, but it's so hard because everybody's trying to distance. Having the ram where people would want to congregate around him doesn't quite make sense,” said Ann Hogan Leonard, who lives on Hogan’s Magnolia View Farm with the rams.
Rameses XXI is nearing the end of his life, so the family got a new baby ram in the spring to continue the tradition of bringing a ram with blue-painted horns and a UNC blanket to home football games for fans to interact with.
James Hogan, great-grandson of the first ram caretaker, said Otis came from a farm in Virginia when he was a few months old. Although the family typically tries to continue the bloodline of the previous ram, the timing didn’t work out. Hogan lives in New York but came back due to the pandemic to work remotely and spend time with Otis daily, to get him used to human interaction.
“I pet him and scratch him, hug on him, get him used to being on the leash and give him lots of food,” Hogan said. “The key is really just socialization and having them as comfortable around people as they are around animals. It’s daily interaction and lots of treats and really not all that different from what you do with your dog.”
Basnight said it was the right time for Rameses XXI to retire, due to all the standing football games would require of the aging horned Dorset. Basnight said Rameses XXI has a great retirement life with free veterinary care and all the food he wants.
“Rameses XXI was a very good mascot. He was very patient and loved the crowds and had a fun personality,” Basnight said. “It's exciting to see how Otis might be.”