Imagine 250+: ‘Indomitable’ and the History of Brown University’s Mascot

Brown Bear and Cubs!

In the ongoing, nationwide debate about what kind of bear is best, the sensible answer is always the brown bear. There’s nothing more intimidating than a 1,500 pound male grizzly, and even polar bears have been hopping on the grizzly train of late.

More importantly, the brown bear is perfectly representative of the Brown University student: social, fierce, and possessing large, curved claws that may reach up to six centimeters in length. As the fall events of Brown’s 250th anniversary grow near, it’s important to look back at the history of this noble mascot, particularly with last year’s installation of ‘Indomitable’ – the massive statue of a Kodiak bear – outside the Nelson Fitness Center.

According to Encyclopedia Brunonia, the first mascot of Brown University was actually a burro, given to the student body by “real estate man” Isaac L. Goff and “valued at $100.” Introduced at a game against Harvard in 1902, the burro was found to be not only frightened of crowds but a totally laughable mascot, and was replaced by a brown bear at the suggestion of Theodore Francis Green in 1904-1905.

A series of brown bears were presented at sporting events in the following years, a number of whom did such typically bearish things as snarling at the opposing teams and (in the case of Bruno III) climbing trees in an attempt to escape the crowds. Plainly, this was back before people realized that keeping live bears on leashes at crowded public events was an incredibly idiotic idea. By the 1960s, students had to be content with humans dressed in bear suits at sporting events.

Since its inception as a mascot, however, the brown bear has continued to enjoy a presence across campus in the form of several statues, which can be found scattered across campus – from the best known one on the College Green to the statue in the garden of the Maddock Alumni Center.

Most recently, British wildlife sculptor Nick Bibby worked for over eighteen months to create perhaps the most intimidating bear sculpture at Brown – ‘Indomitable’ – which stands at the entrance to the Nelson Fitness center and was dedicated by President Paxson in early November of last year.

The statue’s placement outside the Nelson is particularly appropriate: the bronze rendering of male Kodiak bear, which stands fourteen feet tall and possesses massive pectoral muscles, obviously lifts. He doesn’t appear to skip leg day, either.

The grizzly bear, therefore, is a worthy mascot and an ideal of natural power which we should all attempt to emulate.

However, with bear populations on the rise in Rhode Island, Blog would like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few essential safety steps to keep in mind should you encounter a bear:

Stay calm. Do not run. While all bears are primarily herbivorous, the sight of a running figure may cause excitement and activate their carnivorous instincts.

Identify the species! Black bears possess curved claws (ideal for climbing) and level backs. Brown bears possess straight claws and a rounded hump above their shoulders. As a rule, brown bears tend to be larger than black bears.

If a brown bear, slowly back away! Solitary males and mothers with cubs should be treated with particular caution. If the bear rushes and/or attacks you, play dead while shielding your neck with your hands.

If a black bear, be intimidating! Black bears are usually terrified of humans, so if it attacks you, it’s getting serious. Make yourself as big as possible and fight back if the bear attempts to bite or scratch you. They may decide you’re not worth the trouble.

If a Brown student you’ve mistaken for a bear, be civil! Engage in learned conversation about societal constructs while slowly backing away. They may decide you’re not worth the trouble.

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