Of all college football mascots, the Oregon Ducks‘ mascot is one of the most well-known. However, there’s more to it than simply being a cuddly, furry, duck. The only duck mascot in DI college football, there’s a rich history behind the face of the program. You’d be quackers not to read all about it.
What Is the Oregon Ducks Mascot?
One of the most recognizable faces in all of college football, the Ducks mascot doesn’t need a fancy name or even feel the need to talk. It — for a gender has never been assigned or revealed — is simply known as “The Oregon Duck,” and it has become a fan-favorite and legend in the mascot community.
Does the Ducks’ mascot remind you of something? Perhaps it looks vaguely familiar? Maybe you think you recognize it from watching Disney cartoons with the kids (or on your own) in the morning or afternoon?
Well, it should. As the University of Oregon developed its identity in the first half of the 1900s — more on that later — the Ducks’ logos began to draw comparisons to the Disney character, Donald Duck.
The likeness was so striking that Walt Disney himself began to take an interest. In 1947, a verbal agreement between Disney and then-Oregon athletic director Leo Harris allowed the program to use Donald Duck as its logo.
That verbal agreement was formalized in 1973 and remained in place until 2010. The contract for the Ducks’ mascot was scrapped to allow Oregon more creative freedom over where The Oregon Duck could make appearances since Disney had control of its usage under the terms of their contract.
While the white-furred costumed duck has become the face of the program, Oregon’s mascot has not been without challenge and even had a predecessor.
Some people have referred to The Oregon Duck as “Puddles,” and that can incite a furious response from some Oregon fans. However, Puddles was the original Ducks mascot in the early 1920s and was actually a live duck who would appear at Oregon games.
Challengers to The Oregon Duck as the Ducks’ mascot include “Mallard Drake,” who was the brainchild of a student cartoonist in 1978. However, that mascot was voted down by students.
Meanwhile, “Mandrake” — nicknamed “Duck Vader” or “RoboDuck” — made a very brief appearance in 2002. Mandrake was designed by Nike and was a more aggressive-looking representation of a duck.
While you could argue that better characterizes the fight in a football team, “Mandrake” never stood a chance against the long-time furry face of the Ducks mascot. While it has a furry, cuddly-looking facade, The Oregon Duck showed its physicality during a 2007 fistfight with the Houston Cougars mascot.
Why Is Oregon the Ducks?
While Oregon’s mascot has become one of the most recognized and beloved mascots in college football, and even beyond, the program hasn’t always been associated with the beaked beauty.
The origins of Oregon’s football program can be traced back to 1894, but it wasn’t until the early 1900s that they established a nickname for their sports teams. Even then, it was the Ducks brand that we know today.
The first Oregon nickname was the “Webfoots,” which instantly, you would imagine, has some reference to the current Ducks mascot. However, the history goes beyond simply describing the type of feet that water-based birds have.
Oregon was originally known as “The Webfoot State,” with some muddiness over the reason why. It is widely believed to be in reference to a group of Massachusetts-based fishermen-turned-American Revolution heroes who settled on the West Coast.
“The Webfoots reference can be traced to a hearty band of Massachusetts fishermen,” explains the school website, “who in 1776 helped save General George Washington and some 10,000 of his troops from imminent defeat at the hands of the British.”
The website adds, “When many of the Webfoots’ progeny migrated west of the Cascades and settled in the Willamette Valley in the 1840s, the name stuck to their muddy shoes and came with them.”
However, there is an additional explanation offered by University Historian and Archivist Jennifer O’Neal in an article for sportslogos.net.
“Early Oregonians were called webfoots by Californians because western Oregon was so rainy and muddy,” O’Neal said. “So this term spread to refer to both all Oregonians as well as western Oregon in itself. A myth that was created concerning the idea that we really did grow ‘webbed feet.’”
Webfoots was officially adopted as the program nickname in 1926. Very quickly, however, the program became known as the Ducks — a nickname that has stuck despite challengers from nicknames such as the Timberwolves, Lumberjacks, Trappers, Pioneers, Yellowjackets, and Spearsmen.