“What’s the deal with …” the GW Hippo?

It’s that season – the season where you can look for that character with a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly. That’s right, it’s basketball season and it’s prime time for GW’s unofficial mascot, the hippo.

But some students might be wondering why GW’s most lovable mascot is missing in action at men’s basketball games.

“Usually, we don’t use the hippo at men’s games,” said Josh Hartman, assistant spirit program coordinator. “A lot of it is due to the crowd.”

Turns out that it’s because of the hippo’s jolly belly. Because of its very large size, it’s difficult for the mascot to maneuver around the Smith Center with the amount of spectators in the stands.

“It’s hard to have a huge, rotund hippo walking around,” Hartman said. He added that the hippo has also been missing in action because it has “been a little ill for the past couple of games.” In other words, the hippo is getting its paint touched up.

Even if people hadn’t noticed that the hippo has been absent from men’s basketball games, people are likely to notice GW’s unofficial mascot all over campus. The University uses pictures of the hippo for a variety of promotional materials. Perhaps it’s giving the Colonial, GW’s official mascot, a run for its money.

Most people know the story of the hippo, or some version of it. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg purchased a bronze statue of a hippo from an antique store while on a vacation in New England in 1996. As a gift to the class of 2000, the hippo statue was placed outside Lisner Auditorium. Since then, it has received an increasing amount of attention on campus and was declared GW’s unofficial mascot in 2001.

“I guess he has a penchant for hippos,” said the University’s Assistant Archivist Lyle Slovick about Trachtenberg. He added that questions about the origins of GW’s unofficial mascot are some of the most common the University Archives receive.

Some of these questions might come from alumni.

“A lot of older alumni haven’t even heard of the hippo if they haven’t been to campus or a basketball game,” said Joe Bondi, director of Alumni Constituency Initiatives.

He conceded that some alumni are confused about the recent mascot addition and might think it’s silly.

“I think the hippo frankly is supposed to be silly. It’s supposed to be a fun tradition for students,” Bondi said. “It’s not a serious fighting hippo. It’s more of a fun mascot for us.”

Bondi said, “There will come a time when people don’t remember a GW without the hippo.”

-Caitlin Carroll

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