When Mississippi State opens the 2001 season Sept. 3 on campus, the university's football team will be accompanied on the playing field by the newest four-footed holder of the mascot title "Bully."
"TaTonka Gold," a white-and-fawn bulldog pup, officially is designated as Bully XIX. He is a 6-month old descendant both of Bully XVI, "Replica of Corker," and Bully XVII, "Lucky Be Happy."
Lisa Chrestman, an animal health technician at MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, continues in her role as Bully's foster mom and social secretary.
She said "TaTonka"--a Sioux term for "buffalo"--was named by veterinary students who thought the word best described the shape of the animal's head. "Gold" was part of his mother's name and also is the color of parts of his coat, she added.
"Tonka," his moniker, is the first mascot purchased outright by the MSU athletic department. His predecessors were donated either by alumni, students or university employees.
The pup, which goes to work with Chrestman every day, is the latest in a long line of bulldog mascots dating to the early days of the 20th century.
Chrestman said the process of selecting a new Bully required more than a year and included the screening of some 15 candidates by a team of veterinary college specialists and athletic department staff members.
In addition to being healthy, the general criteria for selection included an attractive conformation (body shape) and a multi-colored coat, which is more photogenic and more easily appreciated from stadium seats than a solid-colored dog.
Chrestman said each candidate was given full physical examinations, including a chest X-ray to determine trachea size. Bulldogs with small tracheas have problems breathing in the Mississippi heat, she explained.
"The first thing I noticed about Tonka was that he had that 'I'm it and I know I'm it' air about him," she said. "He seems to be the perfect mascot."
In addition to appearances at home football season starts, Tonka will be greeting alumni prior to each of the seven home games at the Butler-Williams Alumni Center. He also will be in attendance at basketball and baseball games, and many other university events.
When not working, Tonka will reside at the Bully House in the Wise Center, home of the veterinary college on Blackjack Road.
Chrestman said campus visitors are welcome to stop by and see Tonka whenever the "Bully" flag is flying on the Wise Center flagpole. Entrance to the Bully House may be made through the medical complex's north entrance, which is near the flagpole.
Chrestman said Tonka's mascot career probably would run about six or seven years. Afterwards, she said, "We want him to enjoy a retired celebrity life."
For information about Bully's campus appearances or public visitation schedule, contact Chrestman at (662) 325-1052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.