from Panthers on the Gridiron by Ben Lewellyn and Peter Starr
In 1924, Birmingham-Southern purchased an authentic stuffed panther from a scientific organization. Proud of their new icon, the team captain, “Red” Farr, even posed for his photograph in front of it.
This new prize interested more than a few Howard students, and became the focus of the 1926 prank. On the Tuesday before The Game, a crew of Howard men snuck onto the Hilltop and broke into the Science Hall. They tossed the feline into the backseat of their car and spirited it away.
Once on their own campus, the perpetrators allowed their own bulldog mascot—quite alive—to have his way ripping the panther to shreds before returning the damaged cat back to BSC in an ambulance followed by twelve carloads of yelling Howard students.
Taking a page out of BSC's book, the Howard students then staged a fake burial of the Panther.
Comments & Questions
- Lewellyn and Starr mention that the Birmingham College football team was first described as a “pack of panthers” by a spectator in 1916.
- We now have two panther statues on campus, but have there been other “stuffed” panthers? Or other manifestations of the mascot?
- In his book on college folklore, Piled Higher and Deeper, Simon Bronner notes that kidnapping the rival's mascot has long been a favorite sports prank. This is not surprising to anyone who has seen Homer Simpson's misadventures with a pig named “Sir Oinks-a-Lot.” It would be interesting to learn if other BSC items have been coveted, purloined, liberated, or ransomed over the years.
- One of the more interesting tales involving mascots and taxidermy comes from Tufts University in Boston where the school mascot is a specific, very famous elephant named Jumbo. Jumbo became a celebrity in the 1880s, traveling with the Barnum and Bailey circus. Upon the elephant's untimely death, Barnum donated its skeleton to the Smithsonian and its stuffed hide to Tufts. Although it was eventually destroyed in a fire, Jumbo stood for decades in the university's Barnum Museum where students would pluck hairs from its tail for luck. (For the full story, see Tufts Online Magazine Spring 2002 http://www.tufts.edu/alumni/magazine/spring2002/jumbo.html )
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