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.

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