History of the Colorado Buffaloes Mascot

In a sport teeming with traditions, the Colorado Buffaloes mascot is a part of one of the most beloved of all, and we dive into the history behind it.

“Running with Ralphie” is one of the most iconic sights in all of college football, and the Colorado Buffaloes mascot is beloved by fans from far and wide. In our latest look at the many mascots of college football, we uncover the history behind the Buffaloes mascot.

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What Is the Colorado Buffaloes Mascot?

Ralphie the Buffalo is the live Buffaloes mascot, continuing a tradition at the Boulder university that dates back to the first “Ralphie” back in 1966. Yet, the use of a live buffalo as a mascot for the university goes back even further than that.

In 1934, the program was officially given the nickname “the Buffaloes” following a newspaper contest after years of being referred to by multiple nicknames, including the Big Horns, Frontiersmen, Grizzlies, and several names in reference to the university colors.

To celebrate the new name, several students got together to acquire a buffalo calf to patrol the sidelines of games.

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“Killer” was the first Buffaloes mascot, while several other animals played the role — including “Mr. Chips,” who first made an appearance in 1957 — in a part-time capacity that saw stretches of time without the appearance of a live mascot.

It was decided in 1966, however, that Colorado needed a full-time Buffaloes mascot, and the original Ralphie arrived that March. Since then, there have been six different buffalo that have played the role of Ralphie and endeared themselves to Colorado and college football fans alike.

Each new Ralphie has its own distinct nickname, listed below, along with their dates of tenure.

  • Ralphie I, Oct. 1, 1966 – Nov. 18, 1978
  • Ralphie II (Moonshine), Nov. 18, 1978 – Sept. 19, 1987
  • Ralphie III (Tequila), Sept. 26, 1987 – Nov. 28, 1997
  • Ralphie IV (Rowdy), Sept. 5, 1998 – Aug. 31, 2008
  • Ralphie V (Blackout), Sept. 6, 2008 – Nov. 23, 2019
  • Ralphie VI (Ember), Sept. 1, 2021 – present

Like most live animal mascots in college football, Ralphie mainly makes appearances at Colorado home games. However, the Buffaloes mascot has made road-game appearances, including a trip to Athens to face the Georgia Bulldogs in 2006.

Ralphie is arguably most famous for the run that the Buffaloes mascot does prior to each game at Folsom Field. Accompanied by “The Ralphie Handlers,” the animal runs around the field in a horseshoe pattern at speeds that reach 25 mph. The run is repeated before the start of the third quarter.

Remarkably for a live animal mascot, mishaps with the Buffaloes mascot are rare, especially in recent history. However, at the Colorado Spring Game of 2008, the debut of Ralphie V didn’t go according to plan as the buffalo broke free of the harness and ran off into the open field.

“I feel kind of bad, because I just remember it being hilarious,” one fan in attendance told BuffZone.com. “Ralphie just runs a guy over right away. Right off the bat, I’m thinking, ‘Were they not ready? Did somebody open the gate too soon?’ My other enduring memory is one guy holding on for dear life.”

Are There 2 Buffaloes Mascots?

Yes. While Ralphie has made the Buffaloes mascot famous and a must-watch sight in college football, Colorado has more than one mascot. In the 1980s, Ralphie was joined on the Folsom Field sidelines by a costumed Colorado mascot named Chip the Buffalo.

According to the University of Colorado Boulder website, Chip makes between 300 and 400 appearances each year. They include for the university’s multiple sports programs, plus community and campus events. Colorado’s costumed mascot consists of a fabric buffalo body, a jersey sporting No. 0, and a face made of foam and steel-covered hockey helmet.

Is the Buffaloes Mascot a Girl?

Yes, she is. With the name Ralphie, there is a popular misconception that the Buffaloes mascot is a male. While we’ll get to the naming shortly, we can confirm that the face of Colorado football — and other sports at the university — is a girl.

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Female buffalo tend to be smaller and less aggressive animals than their male counterparts, making them easier to train and handle. Furthermore, the university uses female buffalo for insurance purposes. They simply wouldn’t be insured for using a male buffalo.

Why Is the Colorado Mascot Named Ralphie?

The original full-time Buffaloes mascot, which came to be the face of Colorado football in 1966, was initially named Ralph due to the noise that the beast made while it was running.

However, according to About Boulder, the name had to be changed when it was pointed out that the buffalo calf was a female. Rather than a wholesale name change, they just added “ie” to the end, with an assumption that it sounded more feminine.

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