Army-Navy Mascot War: Drugged goats, stolen mules

Phil Briggs
December 07, 2018 - 2:55 pm


Army vs Navy- It’s often referred to as “America’s Game."  This fierce rivalry has played out on football fields since 1890.

But there is also a darker side- mascot abduction.  Which over the years has involved Navy goats, Army mules, Air Force falcons, chloroform and blood.

The history of service academy mascot kidnapping likely begins with the Navy’s goat.

Library of Congress/Harris & Ewing

Above: Left, a photo from the early 1900s from the US Navy Historical Center, Right; Bill circa 1921, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Harris & Ewing, LC-DIG-hec-31508

As unusual as it sounds, goats served a purpose on Navy vessels, as they didn’t need special food, could digest most scraps and when their time as a garbage disposal was over they could be carved up and eaten for dinner.

El Cid the Goat appeared at the 1893 Army-Navy football game where the fearsome angora animal helped inspire the team to victory. It became a tradition and by 1904 the Navy had officially branded the team’s mascot as “Bill."

Not to be outdone, the Army introduced mules in 1899. They chose the mule because they had been relying on the strong animals for years. Mules typically hauled baggage and artillery, but had also been used as ambulances.

After bringing their mule to the game, Army defeated Navy 17-5, and the tradition of mascots and mayhem began.

Army / Spc. Anthony Bryant

In an in-depth report by Vice Sports, the first recorded goat kidnapping was in 1953, and it was the work of two cadets (on a cheerleading squad known as the “Rabble Rousers”) who hoped to inspire an Army team with a losing record and extremely low morale.

After breaking into the Naval Academy area where Bill was kept, they stuffed him into the back of a car and drugged him with chloroform.  According to Vice Sports, “Bill the Goat was thrown into a soft-top convertible, lying slack-jaw across the backseat as the car sped north for West Point, New York … By the time police arrived at the United States Naval Academy's Thompson Stadium, all that was left were two cans of chloroform, a rag, and an empty goat shed.”

On the field that year, both the Army team and the Rabble Rousers went off.  According to Vice Sports, “In front of 102,000 people, they chanted again like a mad, barking choir, the Rabble Rousers conducting. The team went mad too. Bob Farris, tackle and linebacker, played so hard he went blind in one eye. He played the second half with a detached retina.” The Army won convincingly 27-7 and the tradition of stealing mascots had begun.

Years later in 1991, a losing Navy program (they were 0-10 heading into the game) would pull off an incredible mule heist. 

Twenty midshipmen planned the heist which involved; disguising themselves as tourists for reconnaissance, raiding an veterinarians clinic disguised as military police, collaborating with an area farmer to acquire a trailer, and a getaway chase that involved police and Army helicopters, eventually ending with a police clash and a secret rendezvous at a farm near the Naval Academy. The mules were later paraded onto the field where the crowd went crazy as they watched the 0-10 Midshipmen beat Army 24-3.

According to Vice Sports, “Rather than arrests, the Commandant of Midshipmen even created a certificate to honor the seventeen men who had pulled the whole thing off, a unique award for a new elite club. He called it The Order of the Mule.”

Related: The 2018 Army-Navy Game "Uniform Battle" has begun

But in more recent years this mascot mischief has led to more dangerous outcomes. 

A 2012 heist of a Navy goat ended with it being tied to a median in Crystal City, VA. along Army Navy Drive. Though no Army cadets were caught in this prank, the goats caretaker' was clearly pissed off when he spoke with a reporter from Bleacher Report.back in 2012.

“We don’t condone the kidnapping of live mascots,” explained Jennifer Erickson, Naval Academy Director of Media Relations. “Things are different now, and they [Cadets and Midshipmen> are given a set of guidelines on pranks and spirit missions.”

Things have gotten so serious that Navy's goats (there are 4 of them) must be “kept in a secure location,” according to Erickson.


While service rivalries create good fun, mascot pranks ended badly for Army earlier this year when they abducted the Air Force’s falcon. According to a report in the New York Times, “a scheme by West Point cadets to swipe two falcons belonging to the Air Force Academy ended with one of the birds bloodied, the start of an investigation and a public apology from West Point.”

Sam Dollar, the Air Force Academy’s falconry team adviser told the Times, “They threw sweaters over the birds, and later stuffed them into dog crates.”

Air Force / Photo by James Varhegyi

Army cadets turned the birds in on gameday.  Dollar said a falcon named Aurora, “suffered abrasions that bloodied her wings, likely when she was thrashing inside the crate.”

Twitter was filled with plenty of people who thought the pre commsioned pranksters had taken it too far.

While the Pentagon has clearly sought to stop chloroformed goats, stolen mules, and wounded birds, even the memo signed by both Army and Navy has not been enough to stop these kidnappings. (Goats have been stolen in 1995, 2002, 2007 and 2012.).

As long as there are mascots, aspiring young officers and enough alcohol, there will be soldiers, sailors and airmen ready for the challenge.


Mascot mischief may seem a bit cruel and slightly stupid, but if anything it shows the fighting spirit of our military.

And the fight on the football field is nothing, compared to the ass-kicking our enemies will receive on the battlefield.


Full disclosure: Reporter Phil Briggs will be cheering for Navy!