Why is Georgia known as the Bulldogs?  A look at UGA’s mascot history

what’s in a name A great deal for a sports team. Let’s take the Georgia Bulldogs as an example. If you’re a college sports fan, the program and its iconic mascot, Uga, are ubiquitous figures of popular culture. Red and black play a particularly important role in football.

But have you ever wondered where the name Bulldog came from? What does a pet have to do with the University of Georgia?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and try to understand the origins of the lovable mascot of Georgia.

Georgia Bulldogs mascot Uga X is seen before the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. There is an interesting backstory to why a bulldog represents the college team.Todd Kirkland/Getty

Georgia may be called the Bulldogs because of Yale

When sports fans think of college ties, they usually think of rivalry. In this case, however, something more harmless was at play.

“Many oldtimers say Georgia got the nickname ‘Bulldogs’ because of its close association with Yale, whose nickname is ‘Bulldogs’,” according to the University of Georgia’s website. “Georgia’s first president, Abraham Baldwin, was a Yale man, and the first buildings on campus were designed from plans of the same building at Yale.”

That may be a good story, but there could be an alternative explanation.

“But on November 3, 1920, Morgan Blake of the Atlanta Journal wrote about school nicknames and said ‘The Georgia Bulldogs’ would sound good because there’s a dignity and ferocity about a bulldog,” the article continues. “After a 0-0 draw with Virginia in Charlottesville on November 6, 1920, Atlanta Constitution author Cliff Wheatley used the name ‘Bulldogs’ five times in his history. The name has been used ever since.”

The last part of that blurb is certainly true. Whether the inspiration came from Yale, the school’s collective nature, or some other source, it stuck and became part of the college athletic landscape.

When did Georgia become the Bulldogs?

Believe it or not, there was a time when the UGA’s soccer team went to the starting line without their canine moniker.

As the school library explains, the football program started in 1892. During those early competitions, their mascot was a goat, “adorned with a blanket with ‘UG’ written on the back and a hat with red and black ribbons.” However, it only lasted a few games.

Georgia also started without an official nickname. “In those early years, the U of G teams didn’t have an official mascot or nickname. They were usually known as ‘The Red and Black’ but have also been referred to at various times and in various accounts as ‘The Varsities’ or ‘The Athenians’, ‘The Georgians’ and, in at least one newspaper report, ‘The Huskies’ ‘ the library said in a statement.

In 1920, the nickname “Bulldogs” was officially adopted and provided a unified identity that continues to this day.

There is also a long line of living bulldogs called UGA

Bulldogs are more than just a nickname to Georgia. There is also a live dog, named Uga after the school abbreviation, which is an important part of the gameplay.

As detailed on an athletics department website entitled “History of the UGA Mascot,” there were other bulldogs, but Uga I entered the scene in 1956. To this day, the mascot bulldog is descended from this original dog, and both take on the name “Uga” and receive the mascot’s famous spiked collar when it’s time to step into the spotlight.

The school is currently on Uga XI’s turn, who will take over the school for the 2023 season. Uga X retired and the current pooch took off the leash in the spring.

And lest you think that the dog is only used for work, the job has some advantages. As well as fame — which might be anyone’s cup of tea — Uga also has an air-conditioned kennel, earns a college letter, and is eventually buried at Sanford Stadium.

How did Uga, the living bulldog, come about?

Now that you know more about Uga himself, how did this particular bulldog family come to be associated with football in Georgia? It wasn’t about a grand explanation, just being in the right place at the right time.

As CBS News explained in 2014, Sonny Seiler, a Georgia law student, had recently married and given birth to a white bulldog puppy.

“We took him to the Sigma Chi dormitory before the first home game,” Seiler recalls. “[His late wife,] Cecelia had made a shirt for him from a child’s t-shirt and sewed a felt “G” on the front. We took him there with no intention of taking him to the game. But after several iced teas – you know how that goes – everyone just says, ‘Let’s take him to the game!’”

According to legend, this bulldog was then made the official mascot and renamed Uga.

Does Uga the bulldog get paid?

While Uga, the mascot, receives numerous perks, he is not paid directly for his work. (What would a dog do with money, anyway?) But what about the Seiler family?

The CBS News story explains that “the Seiler family was honored to share their pets with the university without payment.”

However, not everyone loves Uga

Although the Bulldogs are a part of the Georgia football experience, they are not popular with everyone. As might be expected, PETA has repeatedly urged the university to stop releasing live animals on game days.

“Can the UGA, as consecutive national champions, not find the courage to honestly investigate the impact of their sponsorship of deformed dogs and end their outdated live animal mascot program?” PETA said in a January 2023 statement, “PETA demands.” [Georgia president] “We want Jere Morehead to be a real eye-catcher, replacing poor Uga with a human mascot who can support the team in a victorious way.”

The school, however, was unmoved.

“We are proud of our beloved mascot and grateful for the excellent care provided by Uga’s devoted owners, the Seiler family,” said athletic director Josh Brooks.