Happy Birthday, Bucky: Beloved mascot continues to make history

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- He’s nearly 80-years-old, but he is still young at heart.

Buckingham U. Badger turns 79 on Oct. 2. According to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Oct. 2, 1940 is the day his likeness was copyrighted.

The lovable mascot, Bucky Badger, though wasn’t always wearing a sweater and wasn’t always Bucky.
UW-Madison used a badger as its mascot in the late 1800s and in the early years, used a live badger mascot at games. That badger was unnamed and in 1947, it was determined to be unsafe for fans and players. It then retired to the Henry Vilas Zoo.

In 1940, the first drawings of “Bucky” wearing a sweater appeared and nine years later became a mascot. A papier-mâché mascot head was created by UW art student Carolyn Conrad in 1949. It was donned by Bill Sagal, the first student to wear Bucky. He came to life at the homecoming game. A naming contest was held, and the badger mascot was named Buckingham U. “Bucky” Badger.

“Bucky” almost was replaced in 1973 by a cow. Assistant Attorney General Howard Koop said “kids love cows” and wanted Henrietta Holstein, but that idea didn’t come to fruition.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, Bucky will be at Badger Bash at Union South. The free tailgate tradition kicks off 2.5 hours before kickoff and has been around for more than 40 years.

At the Bash students, alumni and fans sang happy birthday to Bucky, and then enjoyed cupcakes on the house.

NBC15 is the media partner of the Badger Bash. NBC15 Sports Director Mike Jacques will be emceeing the Badger Bash and NBC15 Chief Meteorologist Charlie Shortino will be providing live weather forecasts. NBC15 anchors and reporters will also be on hand to help fans get in the Badger Spirit. A booth will be set-up for fans to try out a green screen, pretending to be a meteorologist or reporter.


Picture of a live Badger from 1915. Courtesy: University of Wisconsin Digital Collections