The University of Georgia in Athens is about 60 miles from Atlanta. It boasts one of the most widely recognized mascots in collegiate athletics, an English bulldog known as Uga. The bulldog first became associated with the university in late 1920, when the nickname was suggested by journalists at the Atlanta newspapers.
Originally used in a blood sport called bull baiting, English bulldogs were bred to be fierce, courageous dogs. After dog fighting became illegal in Great Britain, dog lovers sought to breed the ferocity out of English bulldogs. The result is a dog that is generally protective but gentle. These medium-size dogs may have coats of brindle, red, fawn, piebald, fallow, or in the case of Uga, pure white.
The role of the University of Georgia mascot has been embodied by several dogs, all from the same bloodline of white English bulldogs, and all named Uga, an abbreviation of the university name. The dogs have been owned by the family of Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler since the first Uga arrived on campus in 1956. Each English bulldog sports a spiked collar and a jersey made from the same material used to make players’ uniforms. Uga V gained notoriety during a 1996 game by attempting to bite Auburn running back Robert Baker. He also appeared in the film "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
The University of Georgia’s first real English bulldog mascot was Uga I. He was the university’s mascot for 10 years before being succeeded by his son at the 1966 homecoming game. The “passing of the bone” from father to son became a part of the Georgia tradition. Uga VIII began his career at the 2010 homecoming game. He died in February 2011, but another English bulldog was expected to take his place for the 2011 season.
Just as players sometimes come off the bench to replace injured starters, Georgia has twice used “backup” English bulldogs. In 1986, Otto, the son of Uga III and brother of then-official mascot Uga IV, attended four games in place of his injured brother. During the 2009-10 season, Russ served as a substitute mascot in eight games for his half-brother, Uga VII.