Upon hearing the name Drake University, most would assume the mascot for the university would be a duck. Drake is the scientific term for a male duck. Instead, Drake’s mascot is a bulldog, but this hasn’t always been the case.
From 1893 to 1909, Drake’s athletes were known as the Drakes. Then, in 1909, the bulldog became the university’s mascot. John L. Griffith was the head coach of the football team for Drake that year. He owned two English bulldogs, and students would walk them around during the football games. People began to love these animals and began to see them as a symbol of tradition.
Art Gordon, The Des Moines Register’s sports editor at the time, noted the bulldogs’ increasing status and Drake’s pride in them. Eventually, he began calling Drake teams the Bulldogs in the game reports he wrote. The new title stuck.
The “D” Song is also a classic part to games at Drake. Before gaining a bulldog mascot, this fight song had one slight difference. In the line we now use “Fights like a bulldog for victory,” the word “bulldog” was actually tiger. Drake sports team members were called the Tigers often because of this, even though our official mascot was the Drake. Once the bulldog became the mascot, that word was switched accordingly.
With the arrival of the mascot and matching fight song, this brought traditions such as the Beautiful Bulldog Contest. The event happens every year before the Drake Relays. Bulldogs are judged to become the official mascot of the Relays that year, plus they receive a key to Des Moines. This past year, a bulldog named Lucy won. The winner is also the official bulldog mascot of Drake University for the next year, until the next Beautiful Bulldog is crowned.
Dolph Pulliam, director of community outreach and development at Drake and the main organizer for the Beautiful Bulldog Contest, said that the bulldog is a meaningful mascot.
“The Bulldog represents the infectious spirit of our campus community,” Pulliam said. “Not just in athletics, but in every student group, organization, club, faculty and staff in the Drake campus community.”
Now in its 33rd year, the next Beautiful Bulldog Contest is April 23 at the Drake Fieldhouse. As part of the kickoff to Relays, judging begins at 10:45 a.m. and the pageant starts at 12 p.m.