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The Daily Tar Heel

'A wild history': Reflecting on 100 years of the live Rameses mascot

20231021_COX - UNC FOOTBALL VS. UVA
UNC mascot Rameses poses for a portrait during the football game against UVA in Kenan Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. UNC fell to UVA 31-27.

For the past 100 years, a live Dorset Horn Sheep has stood on the sidelines of UNC football games at Kenan Memorial Stadium bearing the name Rameses — its horns painted UNC blue. 

The tradition began in 1924 when UNC cheerleader Vic Huggins suggested that the Tar Heels needed a live mascot to compete with other schools, like the University of Georgia's bulldog or University of Texas at Austin's longhorn, UNC archivist Nicholas Grahamsaid.

The Tar Heels' nickname made it difficult to find an animal to represent the school, Graham said. However, Huggins was inspired by a fullback on the football team, Jack Merritt, who was nicknamed "the battering ram” by fellow students.

After borrowing $25 from Charles T. Woollen, the University’s business manager at the time, Huggins bought and shipped a ram in from Texas. 

“It’s a wild history,” Graham said

The first Dorset Horn Sheep to serve as Rameses — Rameses I — made his first appearance at a pep rally before a home game against the Virginia Military Institute in November 1924. Since then, Rameses has represented the University as its official mascot. 

Graham said Rameses I only lived for one year after his first appearance, and Rameses II also died after a year.

The first two rams are rumored to have lived on campus under the supervision of students in Caldwell Hall, he said

In 1936, the caretaking of Rameses was delegated off-campus to a local farm owned by the Hogan family, now called Hogan's Magnolia View Farm.Henry Hogan, a former football player at UNC, offered to keep the ram at his family’s farm.

Don Basnight, the grandson of Henry Hogan, is the third generation of Hogans to hold the role of Rameses’ caretaker and grew up taking care of the rams.

“We've got something that's pretty rare,” Basnight said. “And I think that equates to our university as a whole — that our university is rare. Plus, we have a really cool mascot.”

Basnight said that as times have changed, so has Rameses' role. He said that years ago at football games, it was tradition for kids to touch Rameses to get into the football game for free. 

Rameses XXII — or the 22nd version of the ram —  began representing the University in 2020.

“It never ceases to amaze me how people, or Tar Heel fans, just love him to death,” Basnight said

Basnight said there have not been any rams that he did not like, though he remembers one specific ram he had as a child named Bam Bam who was so uncooperative, “that he never made it to mascot status.” 

However, he said the current mascot, Rameses XXII, is his favorite so far. 

He said the Hogan family will celebrate 100 years of the live Rameses with an event in the Pit on Feb. 19 that will include athletic coaches, faculty, the Hogan family and Rameses XXII himself. 

Olivia Biddix, a sophomore biology major, has been Rameses XXII’s student handler during game days since her first semester at the University. Biddix said that Rameses XXII is a sweetheart, and that his favorite thing is to get kisses on his nose.

They said being with Rameses on campus provides a connection between students who adore both the animal and the school spirit he embodies.

 “I am the epitome of a Tar Heel when I'm with him,” Biddix said.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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