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Ralphie the Buffalo

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Ralphie IV on the sidelines at the 2005 Big 12 Conference football championship game

Ralphie the Buffalo is the name of the live mascot of the University of Colorado Buffaloes. Ralphie has been called one of the best live mascots in sports,[1][2][3][4] and she is often erroneously labeled male.[5][6][7]

The team of "Ralphie Handlers," who are varsity student-athletes, run Ralphie around Folsom Field, the University of Colorado's football field, in a horse shoe pattern before each half of each home game. It takes five Ralphie Handlers to run her around the field: two up front on each side to steer her around the field, two in the back on each side to help guide her, and one in far back to control her speed, called the "loop" position. Ralphie can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour (40 km/h). Female bison are used because they are smaller and less aggressive, as well as for insurance reasons, although Ralphie has knocked over her handlers on more than one occasion.[8] Because of this, whether or not Ralphie runs is at the sole discretion of her handlers, and her run may be canceled if she is unusually nervous or upset.[9]


The tradition began in 1934, three weeks after the selection of Buffaloes as a nickname for the University in a contest by the school newspaper, the Silver & Gold. Live bison continued to make sporadic appearances at CU games.

Ralphie I[edit]

Ralphie I served 1966–78

Ralphie I (1966–1978) was donated to the school in 1966 by John Lowery, the father of a CU freshman from Lubbock, Texas, when she was six months old. Initially, she was given the name "Ralph," because of the noise she made while running. After a sharp-eyed sister of Colorado's Delta Delta Delta pointed out that the bison was a female, however, the name was changed to Ralphie.[10]

The tradition of running Ralphie around in a loop on the field started October 28, 1967 during CU's homecoming game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys which CU lost 10–7.

Ralphie attended all football home games and bowl games until her retirement in 1978, a 13-year career. Her final game was on November 4, 1978 against Oklahoma, CU lost 7-28. She achieved national celebrity status and was kidnapped in 1970 by Air Force Academy cadets. She was also voted the homecoming queen in 1971.[11]

Ralphie II[edit]

Ralphie II served 1978–87

Ralphie II (1975–September 19, 1987), originally named "Moon" (short for Moonshine), made her debut on November 18, 1978, the final home game of the season and last game for head coach Bill Mallory for CU, a 16-20 loss to the Iowa State Cyclones.[12] Her name was changed to Ralphie II because the name had become so popular.[12] Ralphie II suddenly and unexpectedly died on September 19, 1987, following a 31–17 win over the Stanford Cardinal.[12] She was expected to retire at the end of the 1987 season and was kept at the Parker Ranch.[13] Featured in the picture are: Ken Kramer (83), Todd Benson (84), and Kirk Petrik (83).

Ralphie III[edit]

Ralphie III served 1987–97

Ralphie III was pressed into service with only five weeks of training due to the sudden and unexpected death of Ralphie II (1987). She was nicknamed "Tequila". She was being trained to replace Ralphie II, who was due to retire at the end of the 1987 season.[14] Ralphie III made her first appearance on November 7, 1987 in a 27–10 win against the Missouri Tigers. John and Shaaron Parker donated the orphan, who was also kept at the Parker Ranch.

At the 1993 Fiesta Bowl, four of the five students running with Ralphie III slipped and fell on the slick field. Only the student in front was left. Ralphie was loose for a period of time.[9] Her final game was against Nebraska on November 28, 1997, Colorado lost 24-27.

After Ralphie's death, the Colorado State Senate passed State Resolution 98–10 by Senator Elsie Lacy—concerning a tribute to Ralphie III the University of Colorado bison mascot, stating: "That the University of Colorado and fans alike have lost a most beloved mascot and are saddened by the occasion of Ralphie III's death."

The first Division I female athlete to run Ralphie was Anne C. Griggs, who first ran Ralphie III in 1994. [13]

Ralphie IV[edit]

Joshua Lawton, photographer for the Boulder Daily Camera, gets a rare look at the secret home of Ralphie IV as her handlers prepare her before the Montana State game in 2006.

Ralphie IV (born April 1997-March 19th, 2017) was born at Ted Turner's Flying D Ranch in Gallatin Gateway, Montana and donated to the University in response to an article in Bison World magazine.[15] John Parker retired as Ralphie's caretaker in May 2000. At the end of the 2009 Football season Kevin Priola retired as one of the Directors of the program and was replaced by John Graves, a former Ralphie Handler and CU graduate.

Ralphie IV made her debut at Mile High Stadium on September 5, 1998 against Colorado State. Colorado won 42-14.

Her home is now in nearby Henderson, Colorado. Her exact location remains a secret because of previous attempts by rival schools to kidnap Ralphie, or otherwise render her unable to run.[9]

Ralphie IV has only refused to run twice.[11] She got spooked November 21, 2003 as she charged out of her pen for her routine run across Folsom Field to mark the start of the game versus CU's nemesis, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Instead of mightily rumbling over the turf, she halted at the 20-yard line, dug her hoofs into the grassy field and refused to budge.[16] CU lost the game 22–31. She also refused to even leave the gates on November 26, 1999, also against Nebraska in another loss, 33–30 in overtime.[17] A Kansas State Wildcats player was once run over by Ralphie.[9] She also has provided the team's only serious accident in 2000 when she tossed Meghan McCarthy "like a bale of hay," leaving permanent scars from her horns.[11]

In November 2002 Violet Stromberg, a 96-year-old lifelong CU football fan, left her life savings of $40,730 to create the Ralphie Fund which helps pay for Ralphie's care.[8] Ralphie IV ran in her final regular-season football against Colorado State on August 31, 2008, CU won 38-17. Her final post-season game appearance before Colorado's loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Independence Bowl on December 30, 2007.

Ralphie IV passed away on March 19, 2017.[18][19]

Ralphie V[edit]

Ralphie V at her public introduction on November 17, 2007. She was 13 months old and weighed 450 lbs.

Ralphie V (born October 2006) was introduced to the public on November 17, 2007 in a major public event called "Ralphie's Salute to a New Era." According to CU officials, Ralphie V will not take over all Ralphie duties immediately; both Ralphie IV and V will share duties as long as Ralphie IV remains healthy. Ralphie IV will retain duties that require a relatively sedate and experienced bison while Ralphie V will take over the most physically strenuous duties.[20]

Like her predecessor, Ralphie V was donated to Colorado by Ted Turner.[20] She was born in October 2006 at the Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico and was named "Blackout."[20] She began training at the age of two months to prepare her to take the field. When she was introduced at the "Ralphie's Salute to a New Era" event she weighed in at 500  pounds (227 kg).[20] Ralphie V runs faster than Ralphie IV and still somewhat wild, according to handlers,[20] and will be larger than the past Ralphies.[20] Her debut game came against Eastern Washington on September, 6th 2008, Colorado won 31-24.

Ralphie V escapes from her handlers at the 2008 Spring Game.

Ralphie V took the field with the football team for the first time at the spring game on April 19, 2008.[21] In her pre-game run Ralphie ran perfectly, but slipped out of her harness at the very start of the halftime run, bumping, but not trampling, one handler and shedding all but one of her other handlers.[21] Zeb Kopasz was the only handler to hold on to her.[21] They were able to get her under control on the far 25-yard line and return her to her trailer.[21]


Ralphie IV in her pen at the Georgia game on September 23, 2006. Also seen is the trailer in which she travels.

She rarely travels to away games—bowl games excluded—and only when permitted by the rules of the host stadium. Ralphie IV traveled to the September 23, 2006 game against the Georgia Bulldogs along with an ESPN producer and cameraman who documented the trip and aired a special on that weekend's College Gameday.[22] She also traveled to the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl.[23]

She wears a custom-made banner that reads "GO CU" on one side, and "Beat [the opposing team]" on the other side with the CU Logo, such as "Beat CSU." Ralphie travels to games and appearances in a black custom stock trailer emblazoned with her name in gold. Ralphie and her trailer are pulled through the University Hill neighborhood before games on her way to the stadium.

Ralphie is held in a secret location so that she will not be harassed or harmed by the public, keeping her and the public safe from harm.

A tradition of the Ralphie Handler Team is to eat a large team breakfast or lunch at a local diner prior to game-day events.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kevin Donahue (2005-12-27). "Let the firings begin: Hawkins cans Ralphie?". Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  2. ^ Nathan (2006-06-14). "The Only Analysis That Matters - Part 4". Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  3. ^ Pete Fiutak (2007-08-25). "College Football's Top 25 Mascots". Archived from the original on 2007-09-01. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
  4. ^ Kyle Ringo (2007-11-28). "Ralphie best college mascot". Archived from the original on December 18, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
  5. ^ Joe Walljasper (2005-11-06). "On field, Colorado steady as they come in Big 12 North". Columbia Tribune. Archived from the original on August 18, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  6. ^ Gigantino, Artie (2003-09-22). "Buffaloes have traveled a rough road to Florida State". Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  7. ^ Drew (2006-09-16). "Blushing buffs". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on 2006-10-19. Retrieved 2007-01-24. (The author states lower on the page the "him" was done on purpose.)
  8. ^ a b Zac Reicks (2002-11-22). "Colorado's mascot handlers get workout with Ralphie". Iowa State Daily. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  9. ^ a b c d Jake Schaller (2006-08-30). "What Ralphie wants, 1,300-pounder gets". The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO). Archived from the original on 2008-04-27. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  10. ^ "Ralphie I". 2003-08-23. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  11. ^ a b c Mary Jarrett (2005). "Sugar and Spice: CU's "Little Girl"". Archived from the original on January 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  12. ^ a b c "Ralphie II". 2003-08-23. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  13. ^ a b "SENATE JOURNAL, Sixty-first General Assembly, STATE OF COLORADO, Second Regular Session". State of Colorado. 100th Legislative Day, Thursday, April 16, 1998. Retrieved 2007-01-24. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ "Ralphie III". 2003-08-23. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  15. ^ "All about Ralphie". 1998. Archived from the original on December 30, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  16. ^ Christine Reid (November 23, 2003). "BAD DAY FOR BUFFALOES Ralphie's runs stops short". Boulder Daily Camera.
  17. ^ Adam Klinker (1999-11-29). "CU's comeback a 'small victory' against Huskers". Daily Nebraskan. Archived from the original on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Brian Howell (2017-03-20). "Ralphie IV, CU Buffs' retired mascot, passes away". Daily Camera. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
  20. ^ a b c d e f Alyssa Urish (2007-11-18). "Fans welcome new Ralphie". Archived from the original on November 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
  21. ^ a b c d Neill Woelk (2008-04-19). "Woelk: Ralphie V steals show at spring finale". Archived from the original on April 23, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  22. ^ David Plati (2006-09-19). "2006 Colorado Football: Game 4 – Georgia". Archived from the original on 2009-09-06. Retrieved 2006-09-22.
  23. ^ Wire services (2006-09-23). "Watch out, Uga - here comes Ralphie". Retrieved 2007-01-24.

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