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Mascot History Filled With Pride, Humility


Two days before the Harvard-Yale game of 1933 the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Herald Tribune were burning up the phone wires with prgent calls to a small kennel outside New Haven.

A rumor had seeped out that Handsome Dan H, Yale's mascot, had been kidnapped. A bulldog, clutched by two young men with caps pulled low over their eyes, had reportedly been seen in a Chrysler roadster that was speeding north toward Boston and Cambridge.

The proprietor of the kennel hastened to dispel the illusion. "Sure he's here," be said. "After all them phone calls from newspaper guys, I went up to check up on the mutt. He never felt better."

But, intentionally or otherwise, the proprietor was not telling the truth.

Dog Licks Man

No one is certain whether the gentlemen of the Lampoon were responsible for temporarily borrowing the dog, and for smearing hamburger at the base of John Harvard's statue. But the morning after a 19 to 6 upset by Harvard the nation's press ran front page photos of Handsome Dan H licking John Harvard's feet.

Handsome Dan VII (no relation), only nine months old but wrinkled and bowlegged for his age, now trots around at the heels of Herman Hickman. One of the gentlest dogs in New Haven, Dan only gets excited on Saturday afternoons when other strange animals invade the Bowl.

Yale's mascot tradition started unofficially in 1890, when freshman Andrew B. Graves '92 brought a bulldog to school that had won more than 1,000 prizes in this country and abroad. The dog became a great favorite with Yale men. Before long he was being led across the field at all football contests.

When Graves graduated, Dan stayed on. He became "Handsome Dan" and the Elis became the "Bulldogs." Dan died in 1898, and was mourned by the entire student body; he was stuffed and put in his present resting place, a sealed glass case in the Trophy Room of Payne-Whitney Gymnasium.

It was 34 years before Yale upperclassmen again decided a live mascot was needed. In 1932 they collected pennies from freshmen and purchased Handsome Dan R. Originally titled "Dour Doruna," the dog lived up to his name by quickly earning the brand of a line. The kidnapping episode soiled him in Blue eyes, and the fact that he came down with worms before the Harvard-Yale game of the next year did his reputation little good.

On his death, Handsome Dan III was presented by Alumni to Coach Raymond (Ducky) Pond. A huge white animal, looking much like the original, Dan III soon shamed the Elis by showing a yellow streak. He was afraid of crowds and shunned his Saturday afternoon duties.

Ferocious-looking--but oh so gentle--Handsome Dan IV was a champion presented by a Yale football player. He was introduced at the Dartmouth game in 1938. The next year he had a tragic run-in with a car on Chapel Street, and died of "a serious paralysis of posterior extremities" while surrounded by fawning attendants in a local veterinary hospital.

Debut With Parentheses

Dan V was the pet of a New Haven high school student, Robert Day, who offered the dog's services as a mascot. When this Dan died of old age in 1946, Day's parents bought Handsome Dan VI. He was introduced to the idolizing Yalies at the Uconn contest the next September. But the fast, blue-blood existence of an Eli, man or dog, was too much for him. He died of a heart attack last February while wintering in Florida.

Dan VII is the nephew of his predecessor and is also a blue-blood. His upswept nose and parenthetical legs will carry the hopes of thousands of Sons of the Blue today into his first Harvard-Yale contest.

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