Football Mascot Uga VII Bites the Dust: Breeding to blame?


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Before I retired to bed last night, I caught word (via the AJC) that the University of Georgia’s esteemed mascot Uga VII had passed on into that great Varsity parking lot in the sky. As I’m not a fan of American football, my reaction was muted. I hadn’t prayed for the team’s victory against Kentucky this weekend (though how’s that for a good omen, Kentucky?*), and I didn’t lose any sleep. But it did get me thinking about the plight of purebred dogs.
Uga VII was, of course, an English bulldog, a breed that’s gained a reputation for looking like wrinkled little fat men. But this wasn’t always the case. Like most breeds, they were originally bred for a purpose: the brutal sport of bull baiting. The practice survived up into the 19th century, but the dogs have lived on, albeit in a slightly altered form.
According to CNN news, breeders (particularly show breeders) have bred generation after generation to encourage that signature physical look: large jowls, stubby legs and thick shoulders. This exaggerated the features, making it hard for many modern dogs to breathe, walk and mate. As a result, the 135-year-old American Kennel Club has revised its standards to encourage healthier animals, while keeping the breed’s signature look.
There’s even a movement in Britain to go a step further and breed back the dog’s original, leaner (and healthier) look. The Old English Bulldog may effectively be extinct, but the Olde English Bulldogge Kennel Club continues to try to bring the animal back to its former glory. Just without the resurgence of cruel, medieval blood spectacles.
At any rate, Uga VII (again, DEAD AT AGE 4) will likely join its six chubby predecessors in the Athens stadium’s canine mausoleum — which is a surprise to me. I had always heard they were buried on the actual playing field, and that every now and then a particularly brutal tackle would dredge up bones.
* Unless, of course, the dog were actually, say, burned inside a giant Wicker Dog to ensure Georgia’s dominance on the field this weekend? You tell me, football fans. Force Animals to Promote College Athletics at How American Football Works How Dogs Work How Dog Shows Work Football Quiz (can you match my mighty score of three?)
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