The UNC football team's beloved mascot, a ram named Rameses, was found dead Sunday, victim of a senseless slashing.
The sheep was found dead about 11 a.m., when the family on whose farm the animal lived, returned home. It was dead from an incision to the chest area that ran the length of the body. Sgt. C.S. Blackwood of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said the nature of the gutting make it appear to be the work of people, not an animal.
The ram lived at the Hogan family farm at Calvander in Orange County. The late Henry Hogan had been a lineman on the 1924 UNC team, when the team adopted the ram as mascot in honor of star fullback Jack Merritt. Merritt was known as the "battering ram." Hogan volunteered his family farm as Rameses' home, and Rameses XXIII was the animal living at the farm until today's senseless act.
Law officers have no leads, and ask that anyone with information contact the Orange County Sheriff's office at 919-732-6300.
Mascots are integral parts of every team from grade school through professional teams, and embody sporting spirit for teams and fans alike.
Rameses was seen most often at Tar Heel football games, when cheerleaders escorted him onto the field on a leash..
At times, his horns would be painted Carolina Blue. And, as a prank, sometimes fans of rival schools painted his horns in their own colors. Never, however, had the ram been hurt.
For other sports events, UNC uses a person dressed in a ram costume. The ram is the symbol of UNC-Chapel Hill and has been incorporated into the informal logo of the university. Its likeness is on glasses, t-shirts, pennants, notebooks and other items sold through the university stores.
Children who attended UNC football games often came down from their seats to the fence around the field to see Rameses up close and to give him a friendly scratch on the head.
UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker issued a statement Sunday, deploring the ram's killing and praising the Hogan family for its long tradition of care for the UNC mascots.
At the time of his death, Rameses was the only live mascot in the ACC. Photo courtesy of The News & Observer
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