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If you could be any animal

Colby and Bates colleges both chose mascots as a reaction to being seen as underdogs in sports contests, particularly football games.

Bates, for example, chose the bobcat because of the anima’s famous fighting spirit despite its small size. “The fight the light Bates football team put up against heavier odds promoted this idea,” wrote Jack Williams ’11 in a letter to the January 1922 Bates Alumnus.

At Colby, Joseph Coburn Smith ’24, editor of the Colby Echo, published an editorial in 1923 suggesting that because Colby football so often upset favored foes, the team should no longer be seen as a “dark horse,” but a “white mule.”

While Bates chose its mascot through traditional egalitarian consensus, the neighbors to the north used a more endemic, festive approach. Before the Bates game that fall, a group of Colby students appropriated a white mule from a nearby farm and marched the animal at the head of the band and student body as they paraded to the game. Having already beaten Bowdoin and the University of Maine, Colby went on to defeat Bates, 9-6, behind the charm of the white mule. The mascot stuck.

Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin colleges all adopted their mascots within a few years of each other in the 1920s.

At Bowdoin, the polar bear evolved into the College mascot in the years after Arctic explorer Donald Baxter MacMillan, Bowdoin 1898, gave a full-grown stuffed polar bear to the College in 1917.

Material from Web sites at Colby and Bowdoin was used in this story.


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