Though over a dozen bulldogs have represented Handsome Dan throughout Yale’s history, the mascot is now immortalized on Yale’s campus.
A quarter-ton bronze statue of the bulldog, unveiled last week, sits outside Yale Bowl. Senior Associate Athletics Director for Varsity Sports Tim Ford said the monument is a testament to the inauguration of football and the college mascot at Yale. Still, several members of Yale’s athletic community said the new statue could never replace the real live Handsome Dan who walks the sidelines of Yale football games.
“For many Yalies and Yale fans, the bulldog has become synonymous with perseverance, grit and determination,” Ford said. “To have those values displayed outside The Bowl reminds all those affiliated with Yale Football of how we play.”
Ford said Irving Jensen ’54, Colin Jensen ’57, Erik Jensen ’63 and Mark Jensen ’67 funded the statue, adding that they also made the “leadership gift” for Jensen Plaza, completed in 2009. Ford said he expects the statue to be a favorite for fans at football games.
Jordan Haynes ’12, captain of the football team, said the Handsome Dan statue is emblematic of the history of Yale football, adding that many members of the team were very supportive of the statue’s construction.
But Haynes and Ford both said the statue could not provide a substitute for the live Handsome Dan.
“I think the fact that he comes to events and is a part of Yale Athletics only enhances the experience of all our fans,” Ford said. “Obviously the fans have the opportunity to interact with him during the course of games.”
For Chris Smith ’13, wide receiver for the football team, seeing the bulldog on the football field during games is cause for excitement.
“It’s a part of the whole game day thing: you’re running out of the tunnel, and you see all of the fans, and you see Handsome Dan and you kind of know everything’s ready to go,” Smith said.
Those close to Handsome Dan XVII — otherwise known as Sherman — were quick to highlight that his personality and physical build differ from those of many of the bulldogs who came before him.
Christopher Getman ’64, who owns the current Handsome Dan and many of his predecessors, said Sherman is healthier and more appreciative of crowds than some of the canines who walked the sidelines before him.
“He gets excited on days when we’re going to a game,” Getman said. “He sees us getting out the tailgate stuff, and he knows there’s going to be a game.”
Rory Hennessey ’05, who describes himself as a “sucker for things bulldog-related” and put Getman in touch with the breeder who provided the current Handsome Dan, said Sherman is more athletic in stature than previous bulldogs, with a taller and leaner build. But his mentality, Hennessey said, is much like that of the previous mascots: he gets “riled up” when necessary and is “a lovable guy when he’s off the field.”
Handsome Dan’s ability to get riled up is perhaps best observed through his reaction to being filmed.
Getman said when a TV camera approaches Sherman, he will “charge at” the camera and then “slime it.”
He added that the interaction fans have with a living mascot like Handsome Dan is “a big plus.”
Yale College Dean Mary Miller agreed, adding that she particularly appreciates that Sherman is not just a color or a costumed person.
“I take great pleasure in the fact that we have a mascot that can be not just impersonated as somebody in a suit, say like a bear or a tiger, but can be present as a living, breathing entity,” Miller said. “He’s a lovely dog. Sherman is a great guy, slobbery and moist.”
Sherman, who was unable to comment for this article, turns five years old on March 21, 2012.