Find out what this Dorset Horn Otis, does in his role as University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s mascot
by Ayn-Monique Klahre / photography by Bob Karp
The Hogan family has been taking care of Rameses, the mascot for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, on their family farm for 99 years. Known as Otis, this Dorset Horn sheep ascended to the role of Rameses XXII in 2020 and is nearly 4 years old. “He’s settled in quite well,” says Daniel Hogan, one of several fourth-generation caretakers for the mascot. Caring for Rameses is a shared responsibility across the entire family. “He’s got a lot going on, so no one person can do all of it!” says Hogan. He shared what a typical game day looks like for Rameses.
Otis is “up with the sun,” says Hogan. The ram shares a barn and a field with cows, goats and a few female sheep. Morning activities generally include grazing and interacting with the other animals and humans. “He’s a farm animal, but he’s pretty much treated like a pet, so he gets plenty of attention,” says Hogan.
Around three hours before game time, a team will meet at the house to get Otis ready. “He’s got to get cleaned up, brushed and painted,” says Hogan. Depending on the weather and how dirty Otis is, it can take one or two hours. Sometimes Otis gets a special treat, like grain or carrots.
Once Otis is all ready, they’ll put on his wool blanket and get him into his Tar Heel blue-and-white trailer. “He’s usually pretty excited when it’s time to go,” says Hogan. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes, driving through downtown Chapel Hill, to get to the stadium. Often folks take pictures or honk as he passes by. “He is absolutely a celebrity,” says Hogan. “He likes the attention!”
Before the game starts, Otis visits the UNC Alumni center or other important gatherings. Then, Otis is “on” for the game, sitting on the sidelines supporting the team. At halftime and after the game, he’ll make the rounds, posing for photos and letting people pet him. By the end, he’s usually pretty tired, says Hogan: “He just wants to be left alone and not hassled.”
“Otis gets excited when we get close to home; he starts sticking his nose in the air and sniffing around because he can smell the farm,” Hogan says. Once they get home, he bolts off the trailer. “He likes to make the rounds and show the other animals he’s been out in the world,” laughs Hogan.
Generally, Otis goes to bed at sunset. “That being said, there are times we get home from a football game and it’s well after dark,” says Hogan. So after game days, “he kind of crashes.” Overnight, the barn is quiet, and, unless there’s a bowl game coming up, Otis can look forward to a full day of grazing ahead.
This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.