When Uga VIII went to his reward in February, concerns were raised in the ensuing comment thread about the health of the mascot line, given the brevity of the last couple of bulldogs’ reigns. At the time, I questioned whether it was appropriate to discuss such matters, but, since Uga VIII has been laid to rest and a suitable interval has passed (and since I am on something of a hiatus, anyway), this may be the proper moment to ask why our mascots have had such short lives lately.
Two years ago, British Kennel Club breeding standards for bulldogs were revised in an effort to address the many health problems encountered by the breed, which include orthopedic and respiratory difficulties. Being from this side of the Atlantic Ocean, of course, Uga and his progeny adhere to American Kennel Club breeding standards, but even the AKC sets goals our recent mascots only partially have met:
The perfect Bulldog must be of medium size and smooth coat; with heavy, thick-set, low-swung body, massive short-faced head, wide shoulders and sturdy limbs. The general appearance and attitude should suggest great stability, vigor and strength. The disposition should be equable and kind, resolute and courageous (not vicious or aggressive), and demeanor should be pacific and dignified. These attributes should be countenanced by the expression and behavior. . . .
The size for mature dogs is about 50 pounds.
While Uga certainly exhibits most of those sterling qualities, "vigor and strength" have not typified recent Georgia mascots, who have been large and lethargic. Uga VIII tipped the scales at 55 pounds, ten per cent heavier than the AKC says a mature bulldog should be, at the time he was introduced as the new mascot at the age of 13 months. It is evident from the progression from Uga I to Uga II to Uga III to Uga IV to Uga V to Uga VI to Uga VII to Uga VIII that the Georgia mascots have gotten progressive larger, perhaps dangerously so.
Equally obvious, though, is the fact that the Sonny Seiler family, for whom Uga is not just a mascot, but a beloved pet, cares deeply for these bulldogs and acts in what the owners sincerely believe to be Uga’s best interests, in adherence to the established breeding standards for the kennel club with which the line is registered.
Is it time to introduce some fresh blood---literally, as well as figuratively---into the Uga line? Is it time to adopt the British breeding standards, to loosen the requirement of a spotless white mascot, to appoint a Vice Uga, or to give Magical Munson Woods a chance? Your thoughts go in the comments below.