UC Davis students have always been “Aggies,” from the university’s beginnings as a farm extension for UC Berkeley, to the present where cows graze across the street from the Tercero Dorms.
But UCD students are not the only Aggies around. It turns out that many universities created under the Morrill Land-Grant Acts either are Aggies or have called themselves Aggies within the last 150 years.
“There definitely is a correlation. I mean it comes from the fact that the original Morrill Act schools were set up to teach agriculture and mechanical arts,” said Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities spokesman David Edelson.
The Morrill Act of 1862 established one land-grant institution in each state and territory. A second Morrill Act, passed in 1890 provided additional endowments to land-grant institutions that either opened their doors to both black and white students or created separate institutions for black students. In 1994, tribal colleges on Native American reservations were admitted as land-grant institutions.
In the U.S., at least eight universities still call themselves Aggies. Famous Aggie land-grant schools include UCD, Texas A & M and New Mexico State University.
At some land-grant schools, the agricultural or environmental and biological sciences college call themselves Aggies, while the rest of the student body rallies under the name of the university mascot. Other land-grant universities that started as Aggies later adopted ag-centric names such as “Farmers” or “Cowboys” as they transitioned to new names and mascots.
Land-grant institutions are not the only ones who consider themselves Aggies, however. Eight high schools in Alabama, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Texas all have claimed the proud title, as a way of linking to the tradition of valuing their land.
Incidentally, Pat Bailey at the UCD News Service reports that “In the official 2001 history book of UC Davis — ‘Abundant Harvest,’ by Ann F. Scheuring — it says that in 1922 the campus name changed from ‘University Farm’ to ‘Northern Branch of the College of Agriculture.’ With that name change, the students became known from then on as the “Cal Aggies.”
What about the mascot?
UCD has gone through a variety of mascots over the years, but the Aggies name remains a constant. UCD students voted to adopt the cow as the mascot in 1993, but administration and alumni were not on board, according to a feature article published on the UCD centennial website.
In 2003, the students decided to adopt a mustang as the school’s official mascot, named Gunrock after the university’s prized thoroughbred stallion. (See sidebar for more on Gunrock.)
And UCD still retains its “Bossy Cow Cow” cheer, from the days when the cows almost took over. The cheer is a rendition of the UC Berkeley Oski Yell and goes:
“Bossy Cow Cow
Honey Bee Bee
Sports Illustrated voted it “the most obtuse cheer” in their Top 50 Jock College Issue in 1997.
How did Gunrock get his name?
In February 2003, after decades of not having an official mascot, a blue mustang galloped onto UCD’s campus. Students and community members were then asked to vote for a name for the new mascot; fans overwhelmingly (98 percent) chose Gunrock through an online poll.
Yes, but why Gunrock? Going back in UCD’s history, Gunrock’s family tree traces to the 1920s. During the roaring ’20s, students at the university farm — named Cal Davis — were given the chance to choose a school mascot. Being an agricultural and veterinary school, the students chose a mustang horse. On campus at that time was a thoroughbred horse who was a relative of the famed racehorse Man o’ War. His name? Gun Rock.
Gun Rock, also a thoroughbred, was brought to the university farm in the 1920s to supply high-quality stock for the U.S. Army Calvary. Gun Rock’s name later was changed from two words to one, as it is now.
More on Gunrock:
Gunrock is the official mascot and ambassador of UCD and Aggie athletics. Gunrock can be found at athletic events and around the community.
Height: 18 hands
Weight: 8 Aggie Packers
Favorite TV show: Mr. Ed
Favorite food: Pizza with hay and extra oats
Favorite team: UC Davis!
Favorite colors: Naaavyyy and gold
Favorite saying: Go Ags!
Favorite activity: Horsing around
— Courtesy of www.ucdavis.edu/aggiepack