Fur your information

Dear Ace: Did I read something in C-VILLE about UVA’s first mascot being a dog? That seems awfully far-fetched to me.—Joan Clawford

Joan: Pardon Ace, but aren’t the whys and wherefores of UVA in the first chapter of your Charlottesville 101 study guide? Ace thought this sort of Hoo-related question was a no-brainer! Or maybe he’s just being, er, cavalier.

The truth is, you read an article in Brendan Fitzgerald’s Curtain Calls column about artist Irwin Berman’s controversial exhibit featuring UVA’s canine mascot and his, er, stool. But that’s not where the story starts.

The first mascot (in the 1920s) was, in fact, a dog. Named Beta—after the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which once bought his license—the University’s canine friend went to football games, fraternity parties and even lectures. Rumor has it that he was in attendance for so many sessions of a course on Plato that his name was called during roll. In the late 1930s, Beta was involved in a tragic automobile accident and was put down. But! In the mid-1940s, another pup took his place. The “Great Seal of Virginia” (originally simply “Seal”) was known for his shiny coat of fur and his clever sense of humor. In 1949, during a game against Pennsylvania, Seal walked from the 50-yard line (wearing a blue blanket emblazoned with an orange “V,” no less) to Penn’s sideline, sniffing out the competition’s accoutrement, and shrewdly lifted his leg. Ace is sure he doesn’t have to spell the rest of this one out for you.
After Seal (Seal-pup, as Ace has taken to calling him) died in 1953 from an internal rupture, the University went through myriad mascots, all deriving from the same idea: the Cavalier. In 1963, it was a nondescript horseback rider. From 1974 to 1982, it was simply a Cavalier sans horse. A Hoo in orange garb performed for crowds briefly in 1983, but was not well received. Shortly after, the bobble head-esque character you see today became the official mascot. Of course, as you might possibly know, a human Cavalier on horseback still leads the team onto the field at the start of each football game. But if you ask Ace (ha!), that’s a little confusing. Can’t the official mascot ride a horse? Ace supposes not. Being able to do it all might give him a big head. Zing!

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com.

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