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.”
Hogan said Rameses XXI and the soon-to-be Rameses XXII interact on the farm — and the age difference between them and lack of a female sheep mean they don’t fight.
“When we first got Otis, we kept him in his own little pen for two days to adjust to his new setting and just to keep an eye on him," Hogan said. "Whenever the goats would walk out of the barn, he wouldn't care at all, but when the ram would walk out of the barn, he would freak out and start like ‘baaing’ and running around in circles. I think Otis just loves the older ram.”
Leonard said the continued tradition is so wonderful because of the pleasure it brings to the community.
“I want to express our appreciation to the Tar Heel nation for how much the ram means to them and how much encouragement and well wishing we get from people," Leonard said. "That means a lot to us.”
Hogan said they’ll probably try to schedule a small event with family and friends to get Otis used to the process of game day. But for now, he spends most of his time grazing and sleeping in his spacious pasture.
“Otis is very young, energetic and outgoing, and is going to be a beautiful mascot,” Basnight said.
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