With summer drawing to a close, the first week of school looms as a momentous time for both new and returning students to the University of Connecticut. And giving both comfort and encouragement to all, Jonathan the Husky stands as a symbol of the UConn spirit.
While the current mascot, Jonathan XIV, arrived on campus in January 2014, the line of huskies to previously serve the role have been both diverse and influential over the development of the university.
The first canine to assume the role was Jonathan I, who arrived on July 23, 1934. His time was brief, but reflects the hectic early days of the UConn campus. Only one day before the ceremony to commence his role as mascot was to happen, Jonathan was hit by a vehicle. Although he survived the accident, his health faltered and he passed away in February 1935.
Jonathan II had a much lengthier historical record, as he would serve for nearly 12 years. As the cousin of Jonathan I, Jonathan II had an eventful time at the university, famously scaring Brown University’s bear mascot up a tree. Even then, the husky pride was too much for a bear to handle! The bear refused to come down, culminating in aid from local police services.
A similar instance occurred during the time Jonathan III reigned, when at the Yale Bowl, he chased Yale’s bulldog mascot for what is assumed to be a substantial distance. Following this feat, Jonathan III would also travel to Antarctica on an expedition, further cementing him as a dominant mascot.
With an impressive legacy to follow, Jonathan IV would carry on the tradition of asserting UConn’s pride when he bit the Yale bulldog on the nose once again. Additionally, Jonathan IV would run onto the basketball court during the UConn men’s first NCAA tournament game. His presence was met with applause, bringing the mascot to the center of attention.
Jonathan V was a very unique husky, as he was rather shy and uncomfortable around the noise of large crowds. To his credit, assuming the role in April 1959, the university was starting to grow in student population, causing commotion for the canine. To compensate for this, and to give Jonathan some peace, a human mascot costume was introduced to have a presence at games.
Sadly, the life of Jonathan VI was brief, as less than a year after taking the role, he passed away after getting hit by a car. However, some of his spirit may have been passed on to Jonathan VII, as he would serve as the mascot for an intense 13 years. Arriving from the University of Alaska as a gift, Jonathan VII was nearly the last of the live animal mascots at UConn, nearly being sold as a protest against the Vietnam War, which was directed at campus administration. Yet, that would fall through, and the impressive reign of Jonathan VII would garner him the title, “Mascot Emeritus.”
Following the stable and uncontroversial reign of Jonathan VIII, Jonathan IX had a much more chaotic role. In July 1991, students at the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity were adamant that Jonathan VIII was actually the title of two separate huskies, meaning that the title would now be on its tenth iteration. As a consequence, Jonathan IX is occasionally referred to as Jonathan X, as no clear answer has yet been given to resolve the controversy.
The next huskies to take the role would all serve as mascots during large achievements for UConn’s sports teams. Jonathan XII would retire following some distress due to large crowds in 2001. As a result, future huskies to take the role would be checked to ensure they could handle such commotion, and more staff were brought on to help care for the husky.
Following the cherished times of Jonathan XIII, UConn students and alumni now have Jonathan XIV as an icon to resemble the pride and spirit of the university, continuing the 88-year legacy of the line of canines.
So with a new understanding of our wonderful mascot, let’s return to school with the same sense of determination that so many huskies have shown throughout the years, and be sure to follow Jonathan XIV on Instagram @jonathanhusky14!