WEST POINT, N.Y. - Three mules, the heirs of a tradition dating back to 1899, currently serve as Army mascots for the Corps of Cadets at the U. S. Military Academy sporting events and various public relations spirit support events.
Raider (formerly known as Joker) is the senior mule. He arrived on Sept. 23, 1995, and was formally welcomed to the Academy at a pre-game ceremony prior to the Army-Colgate football game on Oct. 28, 1995. He was foaled in 1989 by a Missouri Fox Trotter Champion mare and sired by a kibler's jack. He is sorrel (red) in color with a "star" in the center of his forehead and an "R" tattooed on his left hip.
In October 1992 Raider was loaned to the USMA cadets by his owner, Jim Robertson of Wayland, Mo., to serve as a "surrogate" Mule Mascot for the Army-Quincy University soccer game at Quincy, Ill. Raider was donated to the Academy by the Quincy Notre Dame High School Foundation through the efforts of Herb Wellman.
The two newest mules, accepted into the Corps of Cadets during the Army-Holy Cross football game on Sept. 7, 2002, were donated by Steve Townes, a 1975 USMA graduate and former head rabble rouser. Ranger II (also known as George) is the second mule named Ranger. He is named in honor of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He is black in color and was foaled on July 12, 1997. His mother was a quarter horse mare and father was a standard jack. He came to USMA from Independence, Kan. Ranger II was a trail-riding mule prior to becoming an Army Mule Mascot.
General Scott (also known as Scotty) is named for Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Willard W. Scott Jr., former USMA Superintendent and avid Army Mule supporter. His name was selected by Army fans from four suggested names (Thunder, General Scott, Warrior and Storm) on the Army sports website (www.goarmysports.com). He is black in color and was foaled on May 27, 1999. His mother was a half Purcheron mare and his father was a standard jack. He hails from Hannibal, Mo., where he was a pasture-raised mule.
The choice of the mule as a mascot reflects the long-standing usefulness of this animal in military operations - hauling guns, supplies and ammunition. Strong, hearty and persevering, the mule is an appropriate symbol for the Corps of Cadets.
The first Army mule, however, pulled an ice wagon. He became a mascot when an officer at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot decided that Army needed something to counter the Navy goat in the 1899 game between the rival service academies.
So the ice-wagon mule - an oversized white animal - was curried and groomed, then outfitted with leggings, a collar and a gray blanket. Black, gold and gray streamers fluttered from the mule's ears and tail.
The first meeting between the two mascots ended, according to Military Academy legend, when the mule whirled and "hoisted that astonished goat toward the Navy stands to the delight of the yelling, laughing crowd." Twenty-five thousand people saw that game, a huge crowd for that time. It was the first Army-Navy game in Franklin Field at Philadelphia and Army won, 17-5.
Although not much is known of Army's mascots from 1899-1936, mules were present at many games and they adorn the pages of the Academy's annuals, "The Howitzer," of those years. Until 1936, the mules were picked at random either from stables at West Point or, in the case of away games, from stables in the local areas.
In 1936, Mr. Jackson became the first of the Academy's officially designated mascots. He arrived from the Remount Station at Front Royal, Va. His military career started as a pack mule with the Regular Army. He served for many years at West Point as the oldest mule in the Army.
Although joined by a second mascot in 1939, Mr. Jackson reigned as head mascot of the Army team until 1948. The football teams that he served won two national championships while compiling a record of 83 wins - 28 losses - 9 ties.
Retired after the 1948 season, Mr. Jackson is said to have raised loud and vigorous objections when, in later years, younger mules were led from their stalls to participate in game activities. He remained at West Point until his death on Jan. 4, 1961, at the ripe-old-age of 35 years.
The second mascot, Pancho (sometimes called "Skippy"), was a small Ecuadorian burro. She was presented to the Military Academy in 1939 by her donor, Ambassador Colon Alfaro of Ecuador, the same year his sons Eloy and Jamie graduated from the Academy as foreign students.
At the 1942 Army-Navy game, Pancho appeared on the field disguised in a goat's skin and horns. Her rider, dressed in a midshipman's uniform, created quite a scene by riding what appeared to be the Navy goat into the Philadelphia Stadium. Pancho retired in 1958, but stayed at West Point until 1962. Her final days were spent at a farm in Otisville, N.Y.
A third mule, Hannibal I, arrived in June 1948, after six years in the Regular Army. Hannibal I stood over 14 hands high and weighed nearly 1,000 pounds. (A hand is 4 inches.) He died on March 14, 1964; two days after being kicked by another mule.
At the time of Hannibal I's death, there were two other mules on mascot duty at West Point - K.C. MO and Trotter. Both arrived in 1957.
K.C. MO (pronounced "kay-see-moe") was sometimes hard to ride and occasionally threw his rider off completely. He was retired to pasture at Fort Meade, Md., on May 13, 1969.
Trotter was a famous mule even before he became an Army mascot. While assigned to the 35th Quartermaster Pack Company at Fort Carson, Colo., he became the only mule known to have mastered four gaits - walk, pace, canter, and trot. Many mules are unable to hold a gait at all, but Trotter was able to keep a gait for eight hours - or about 50 miles. Trotter's assignment to West Point was made possible after his pack company was deactivated in 1956 and he was sold to the Colorado Springs Rodeo Association. The Association, in turn, presented him to the Military Academy at the Army-Nebraska football game in September 1957. He was also retired to a farm in Otisville, N.Y., in 1972.
Hannibal II (originally called Jack) served as an Army mascot from 1964 until 1980. Hannibal II got his name from the Hannibal, Mo., Chamber of Commerce, which presented him to the Military Academy on Oct. 13, 1964.
The Corps of Cadets officially accepted Hannibal II and Buckshot during half time of the Army-Pittsburgh game in November 1964. Sixteen years later, at another Army-Pittsburgh game, Hannibal II was officially retired due to bad health. He retired to Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Buckshot, a female, weighing about 1,000 pounds and standing 14.7 hands tall, was foaled in 1959. She came to West Point from Colorado Springs, Colo., as a gift from the Air Force Academy in the fall of 1964. USMA cadets presented the Air Force with a ceremonial sword in return.
Buckshot retired at the age of 27 to Elba, Ala., on July 10, 1986. Her retirement ceremony was a formal one with then Superintendent Lt. Gen. Willard W. Scott Jr. presiding. She was pastured on the farm of Lt. Col. (USAR) Kenneth D. Strong, a former mule rider.
Spartacus (also called Frosty because of his white muzzle) weighed about 1,200 pounds, stood 15 hands tall and was foaled in 1969. The Missouri Farmers Association purchased him from the Missouri Draft Horse and Mule Breeders Association. Missouri Governor Warren E. Hearns presented Spartacus to the Corps of Cadets in the spring of 1973 in Jefferson City, Mo. His first public appearance as an Army Mule Mascot was at the Army-Notre Dame football game in November 1973.
Spartacus retired to pasture at the age of 25 to the Collins, Miss., farm of Mr. Ernest Napier, father of Ed Napier, a former Mule Rider. Lt. Gen. Howard D. Graves, then USMA superintendent, presided over a formal retirement ceremony during halftime of the Army-Temple football game on Sept. 24, 1994.
Ranger I was formally presented to the Corps of Cadets by the Ranger Association of World War II during pre-game ceremonies at the Army-Virginia football game in September 1978. Showing his pedigree as the son of a Purcheron draft mare and a Spanish jack, Ranger I was a modestly large mule, standing at 15.2 hands. He was foaled in 1973.
Black Jack was presented to the Corps of Cadets by then Senator Albert E. Gore Jr. of Tennessee on Oct. 25, 1985, as part of the First Annual Lynchburg Mule Show and Letting at Lynchburg, Tenn. Foaled in 1978 in Gatlinburg, Tenn., he weighed 1,000 pounds and stood 14.9 hands. His Tennessee walking horse heritage was evident in his facial features and jet-black color. Black Jack died of cancer of the spleen on Dec. 7, 1989, just two days before the Army-Navy football game.
Traveller (also known as Dan) arrived at West Point, appropriately enough, on the same day that the USMA Class of 1994 started their West Point experience on July 2, 1990. Standing 16 hands and weighing 1,200 pounds, Traveller is one of the largest mules to have served as an Army Mule Mascot. He was named by the Mule Riders for his ability to do certain fancy steps, such as sidestepping. He was foaled in 1982.
Trooper (also known as Ernie) arrived on Sept. 28, 1990. His love for donuts each morning was quickly adopted by the other mules. He stands 15 hands, weighs in at approximately 1000 pounds and was foaled in July 1981. Trooper is a highly trained saddle-type mule and has appeared and competed in many livestock shows and rodeos. Both Traveller and Trooper were retired during the Army-Holy Cross football game on Sept. 7, 2002, and will spend their retirement together on the Wye Mountain Branch of the Rasputin Mule Farm in Bigelow, Ark., owned by Judge William Wilson Jr.
The Army Mule Mascots are trained by cadet Mule Riders who are a part of the Spirit Support Activity of the U.S. Corps of Cadets. One Mule Rider is selected from the fourth class each spring based on expert horsemanship, spirit and leadership. The Mule Rider progresses through the class system until he or she is promoted to Cadet-In-Charge of Mule Riders during the cadet's first class year. Usually, there are three Mule Riders (one from each of the upper classes).
The Army Mule Mascots and the cadet Mule Riders participate in a variety of parades, athletic events, and formal military ceremonies throughout the fall and spring. They represent the best of West Point's rich ceremonial tradition.