Dog Years

A photo essay. To view all 12 images, check out the email. 

He has more statues in New Haven—at least three—than almost anyone. A United States president has painted his portrait. He has 35,000 followers on Instagram.

His name is Handsome Dan, Yale University’s mascot, and his title has been faithfully carried by 19 real bulldogs stretching all the way back to 1892.

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Believed to be the earliest live animal college mascot, the first Handsome Dan was mostly found on the athletic fields, tasked with looking tough in the face of Harvard. But since the 1980s, Handsome Dan has been a public figure all over campus, bringing canine levity to myriad events.

The first two dogs were preserved as taxidermy. More recently, Handsome Dan has been immortalized in sculpture, painting and even 3D printing, as I discovered during my hunt for Handsome Dan likenesses around campus. But the highlight of my search was running across the current pooch, Handsome Dan XIX.

Off-duty, he goes by the name Kingman, a nod to a Yale president. On the job, like a true celebrity, he really knows how to mug for the camera.

Written and photographed by Stephanie Wratten.

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Stephanie Wratten dreams of traveling the world with her camera but enjoys calling New Haven home. Naturally curious, her work as an educator keeps life interesting. She is currently on a quest to grow lots of vegetables despite sharing a backyard with several hungry squirrels.

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