UNH Campus Journal
UNH  |  Calendar  |  Storm/Emergency
Home | Archive | Subscribe/Unsubscribe Contact

Why Wildcat? The Facts Behind the Cat

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
March 7, 2007

1935: First wildcat image used for athletic event programs. Artist unknown.

Choosing a mascot was not a task taken lightly by students attending the university in 1926. They thought long and hard about just what kind of image they wanted associated with their sports teams. Discussions went back and forth in The New Hampshire for several weeks.

Some people were behind ‘the Huskies’ while others felt ‘the Eagles’ presented a more powerful image. The local paper had already dubbed the hockey team the “Durham Bulls.” But a vote taken on February 4 of that year settled it once and for all: UNH teams would be known as the Wildcats.

Not long after, an actual wildcat made its debut at the 1927 homecoming game. It seems a group of students learned that a farmer in Meredith had snared a wildcat. The honor society The Blue Key took up a collection and bought the cat.

The students named her Maizie and brought her, in a cage, of course, to all of the home games. After the football season ended she was given to Benson’s Animal Farm in Hudson. When she died in 1929, members of the honor society had her stuffed. Maizie is now in the university archives.

Several other wildcats followed Maizie. Bozo was bought from Benson’s in 1932. Students decided to rename him after the first football player to score a touchdown during the next home game. Bozo soon became Skippy after Robert “Skippy” Haphey (’35). But his tenure at UNH was short-lived; Skippy disappeared in the spring of 1933.

The scoring incentive was going to be used to name the next cat but, as fate would have it, the first score of the games turned out to be a field goal. Some students thought he should still be named for that player—Henry—while others thought it should be for Charles, who scored the first touchdown. Middle ground was reached by going with Butch, after head coach William “Butch” Cowell and every mascot to follow also bore his name.

In 1939, a week before a big football game against Harvard, Butch II was kidnapped. Tufts had just lost to UNH so, along with the Crimson, were suspected of taking him from his cage, kept behind the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house. Students scoured Boston and Cambridge for Butch II but there was no sign of him. Then, after he’d been gone for three days, an insurance salesman from Woburn, Mass., found the wildcat in his garage. “Harvard-60, N.H.-0” was written on top of the box he was in but Harvard students swore they had nothing to do with Butch II’s disappearance.

Butch III, purchased in 1940, died a week after he arrived in Durham. Members of the Blue Key were persuaded to give up the idea of having a live mascot, perhaps prompted by a n unidentified student who wrote, “The well-intentioned persistence of Blue Key in attempting to keep a mascot not susceptible to domestication seems to many of us, in view of the net results, very unwise."

Thirty years later, a Somersworth man named Jackson Chick was in Texas making a film about wildcats when he came across a six-week old kitten. Fudge—so named by Chick’s granddaughter--was raised by his family, who had him de-clawed. He became tame and Chick offered him up as mascot for football games. But Fudge only lasted one season, being bothered, as the other cats had been, by the noise of the crowds.

email this page!

We welcome your story ideas, letters, photos, notable events, achievements, obituaries and/or memorium.

If you would like to submit an item, please contact the Editor at 862-1567.

Deadline for submissions is Tuesdays at 4 pm.

Print this article Print
Email this

UNH Home | UNH News | Manage Your Subscription | follow UNH News on Twitter!
Campus Journal is produced by
UNH Media Relations
8 Garrison Ave., Durham, NH 03824
University of New Hampshire