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Bucky Badger Bio

Wisconsin's loveable mascot, Bucky Badger, has always ranked high in fan appeal and enthusiasm. Although badgers in various forms had been the University of Wisconsin mascot for decades, the version that is currently known as Bucky, sporting a cardinal and white sweater, was first drawn in 1940 by professional illustrator Art Evans of Garden Grove, Calif. In 1949, a student first wore a badger outfit with a papier-máchê head at the homecoming game and the mascot came to life.

The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. designated Bucky's birthday to be October 2. According to the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Bucky's likeness earned a copyright on October 2, 1940. Though most badgers are born in the spring, this one became officially recognized on October 2.

The nickname "Badgers," was borrowed from the state of Wisconsin, which was dubbed the "Badger State." The name didn't come from the animals in the region, but rather from an association with lead miners in the 1820s. Without shelter in the winter, the miners had to "live like Badgers" in tunnels burrowed into hillsides.

The badger started as the official UW mascot with the inception of intercollegiate football in 1889. The original badger mascot was too vicious to control. On more than one occasion, the live badger escaped handlers before a sideline hero recaptured the animal with a flying tackle. It was decided in the interest of fan and player safety that Wisconsin's mascot be retired to the Madison Zoo. The Badger Yearbook replaced the live badger with a small raccoon named Regdab (badger backwards) and passed it off as a "badger in a raccoon coat."

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In 1949, a student in the university's art department, Connie Conrad, was commissioned to mold a paper-mache badger head. Gymnast and cheerleader, Bill Sagal, of Plymouth, Wis., was directed by homecoming chair Bill Sachse, to wear the outfit at the homecoming game. Art Lentz, the athletic department's publicity director is credited with making the mascot come to life. At that time, the badger went by names like Benny, Buddy, Bernie, Bobby and Bouncey. A contest was staged to name the popular mascot. The winner was Buckingham U. Badger, or Bucky. The name apparently came from the lyrics in a song which encouraged the football team to "buck right through that line."

Bucky Badger has persevered through the years, even surviving a threat by then assistant attorney general, Howard Koop, in 1973. He suggested that Bucky be replaced by Henrietta Holstein, a loveable and productive cow. Koop argued that "kids love cows. A generation could grow up supporting the university and Henrietta Holstein." Koop's effort to overthrow Bucky failed. Bucky even survived a cameo appearance by Sports Illustrated writer Rick Telander. In preparation for a book about the athletic department, Telander wore Bucky's costume at a '91 volleyball game. Telander overcame "terminal claustrophobia" in his appearance as Bucky.

There are approximately seven students needed to meet all the various requests for Bucky Badger appearances. From sporting events to community service requests to the occasional wedding, Bucky is a popular and enduring fixture among Wisconsin fans.

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