The Controversial History of Duke the Bulldog

By Tyler Bryson 

Duke the Bulldog is a staple of the atmosphere at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Duke is seen on everything from merchandise to a statue by the clocktower, all the way to having the student union diner, Duke’s Diner, named in honor of him. Duke has a long history at SWOSU dating all the way back to the 1920s.

The first Duke was the beginning of the living mascots at SWOSU. The American Bull Dog was gifted to President Turner in the 1920s by the students and he was the mascot until his death in the 1930s. “Afterwards there have been a number of official living mascots with names like Skippy, and Mister. But, even after his death Duke has been the mascot people would remember,” Phillip Fitzsimmons, the reference and digitization librarian at Al Harris Library, said.

In 1960 there was a new dog on the Hilltop named Brandy. “A faculty member donated an English Bulldog named Brandy Snifter to be the official living mascot,” Fitzsimmons said. This change of names caused a lot of confusion for the members of the SWOSU body. “For many years people didn’t know if Duke or Brandy was the official name to use.” It was not until 1967 that a name would be solidified.

According to Mary McCauley in an article in The Southwestern from Aug. 23, 1988, “Students chose the name Brandy in November 1967. Students submitted names to the Senate, who then selected the 10 best names and submitted them for a vote. The 10 names selected by the Senate were Old Blue, Bruiser, Dawg, Sarg, Brandy, Gus, Duke, Butch, Champ, TD (for Tuff Dog and touchdown), and Hannibal, the winning name was submitted by Larry Zeka and Gloria Hay, Brandy.” 

It was not until 2005 that Duke’s name would come back to SWOSU when the next living mascot on the Hilltop was born. This Duke would go on to serve until 2007 then a new Duke would take over. This Duke would serve as the living mascot from 2007-2012 then retire due to health reasons.  

Although there have been many changes in SWOSU’s mascots over the years, Duke the Bulldog has left a pawprint on the university and his legacy will be remembered as one of fun, mischief, and SWOSU pride.  


References: Phillip Fitzsimmons- 580.774.3030 or  [email protected]  

                      A 65-page pdf of articles about the history of SWOSU mascots compiled by Fitzsimmons.