Photo courtesy of Quax 1937
Drake University has an amazing culture and unique traditions. Some of these traditions include Street Painting, Drake Relays, “Hubbelling” (sliding down the hill outside of Hubbell on lunch trays) and the famous kissing rock.
Drake’s culture has naturally evolved since 1888, but some of these changes have established a cherished place for themselves within the Drake community. One of these is the mascot: the Drake Bulldog.
Before Drake athletic teams received the bulldog mascot in 1908, they had been known as the Ducklings and Ganders. According to Drake’s “History and Traditions” webpage, John L. Griffith coached every Drake sport in 1908. Griffith was known for bringing his pet bulldogs to the practice fields. A sportswriter who noticed Griffith’s dogs began to nickname the Ducklings the Bulldogs. The moniker stuck, and Drake has been known as the Bulldogs ever since.
Spike the bulldog now holds a special place in Drake’s heart. He not only represents our athletic teams, but also the university. A quick walk around campus reveals frequent reminders of Spike in the form of colorfully decorated bulldog statues scattered throughout campus, each with a unique design.
A three-foot, five-inch tall bronze statue of Spike proudly resides on the southwest corner of Drake stadium, and a less obvious reminder is the architecture of Olmsted Student Center. If one approaches the building from the east and west sides, he can notice that the windows and doors are strategically designed to display the face of a bulldog. Spike is clearly a significant aspect of the Drake tradition.
“It’s not likely that you’ll find a Drake student who hates our mascot,” senior Greg Woods said. “Spike is a really fun part of our culture. When you have a building built in the shape of a bulldog, you know the symbol is pretty entrenched in the culture.”
Before Spike was Spike, he had a different name. In 1936, The Times-Delphic held a contest to name the bulldog. The Alpha Tau Omega fraternity submitted the winning name, and an April 3, 1936, article titled “New Mascot — Meet ‘Butch’” awarded the title.
The fraternity was quoted in the article as saying: “Drake’s bulldog mascot will be known now, henceforth and forever more, as Butch.”
The fraternity won a $1 prize for giving Butch his name. They were the only ones to submit a name in the contest, but the name they submitted made Drake University history.
Twenty years later, Drake students decided to alter Butch’s title. The 1957 edition of Drake University’s yearbook “The Quax,” explains that Spike got his name in a campus-wide “Name the Bulldog” contest. The contest took place during Drake’s 1956 homecoming festivities. After the names were submitted, and the winner was selected, Drake’s Bulldog was officially christened as Spike at the homecoming game.
Whether it references water foul or canines, whether it’s represented by Butch or by Spike, the essence of the Bulldog spirit still holds strong. That’s one tradition sure to remain “now, henceforth and forever more.”