Sophie Henry

In the University’s Visitor Center sits a miniature blue-and-white house adorned with Ys and bones. It’s the brand new home of our school’s cute and slightly contentious mascot, Handsome Dan. Officially, this iteration is Handsome Dan XIX, but the dog’s given name is Kingman. Instated in March after Handsome Dan XVIII retired to New York, our current canine mascot was chosen from a healthier, more athletic breed of bulldog than past Handsome Dans — an aesthetic that is proving to be divisive. 

Kingman is the son of Salty Sarah and Johnny Lightning and cousin of Handsome Dan XVIII, and he was chosen at only seven weeks old. His breed is The Olde English Bulldogge, a capable, muscular-looking variety of bulldog. But he has been getting some flack lately for aging badly. However, his loyal supporters see through his wrinkled exterior into the dog’s natural enthusiasm.

“Most of my friends think he was cuter as a puppy,” Ashley Tanaka ’24 said. “But he reminds me of my dog whom I love dearly because he so ugly that he’s cute. Kingman’s goofy grin always makes me smile.”

Kingman has been a visible campus figure, with his handler, Kassandra “Kassie” Haro ’18, writing in an email to the News that the goal for her has always been “to make Handsome Dan a very present Yale community mascot.” The two attend many campus-wide and athletic events. Handsome Dan has a Twitter and Instagram, to which Haro posts fairly frequently. Kingman shows off his encounters with Yale students, collection of bow ties and affinity for naps. In more posts than not, he asks for his favorite “snackie” — peanut butter.

His Instagram offers unique insights into his life. Kingman was born in Bristol, Maine, and we see him on occasional playdates with other puppies from his litter in his posts. According to Haro, Handsome Dan’s sister’s name is Yael and she also lives in Connecticut. Kingman has met her a few times. One of his brothers, who still lives in Maine, has also come down for a reunion. 

And his Instagram comment section gives unique insight into his online fellow dog friends.

@JudgeJudyTheBulldog commented on a post with Yael, “@handsomedanyale i am your sister also. Your big bossy older sister. My name is Judge Judy. Nice to see you looking cute like me.”

@MerkelPug commented, “I work next door to the visitors center. My life is better knowing I am in the same block as this Good Boi.”

Kingman’s popularity among other pups comes from his demeanor. Haro describes him as “lovable, inquisitive, goofy, and very playful” and says he loves other dogs––with an affinity for Labradors specifically.

“I love the response he gets on social media. A lot of bulldog accounts follow him and it’s very enjoyable to watch them interact with his page,” Haro said.

Olde English Bulldogges are an acquired taste. The breed is considered healthier than other bulldog breeds, and they tend to live longer. They are characterized by their muscularity, less wrinkly skin, longer muzzle,wider nostril, and an eighteenth century British bulldog look.

“I love him unironically,” Emily Zenner ’24 said. “Everyone is always like Handsome Dan is so ugly. I think he’s adorable. I like that he is an The Olde English Bulldogge because he’s a little healthier which makes me feel good.”

Having a healthy mascot should be a priority, as past Handsome Dans have been plagued by health issues and misfortune. Historically, the mascot has been an English Bulldog, a breed that suffers from many more health issues, until Handsome Dan XVIII. Handsome Dan IV died after being paralyzed in a car accident. Handsome Dan VIII fell into a pool of mud, and had to be resuscitated only to die a short time afterwards. Handsome Dan XI retired due to arthritis. And Handsome Dan XIV and XVII died of heart attacks.

However, Kingman stands a better chance due to his breed. And now that he is in his young and wild days like the college students that surround him, Kingman’s personal health and proper bulldog behavior are likely not at the top of his mind. 

“He does not know how to behave,” Zenner said. “He’s like untrainable. The handler walks him in Silliman, and she’s always calling him to sit and be calm and he just doesn’t. So he’s like a menace. I really appreciate that.”

Not-so-Handsome Dan — a menace here for a good time regardless of his health. What a great representation of the Yale community.

Dante Motley is public editor for the News. He was previously managing editor, and prior to that he covered Black communities at Yale and in New Haven. He has also served as an Associate Editor for the YDN Magazine and worked on "The Yalie" podcast. Dante is a senior in Grace Hopper College majoring in anthropology.