Those familiar with Auburn University football know the surprising fact that Auburn, in a sense, has two animal mascots. The football team is known as the Auburn Tigers, and yet the University also has a strong connection with the eagle as a school symbol. Fans of the football team yell “war eagle” during kickoffs and a live eagle is released before every football game that is trained to circle the stadium. So where did this eagle fascination originally come from?
“War Eagle” The Legend
There are many urban stories surrounding the origin of “war eagle,” but the most popular one tells about the first Auburn football game in 1892 between Auburn and the University of Georgia. While the game was going on, an old Civil War veteran walked to the edge of the field to watch the game. This character had long ago found an injured golden eagle on a battlefield and had kept it as a pet. The eagle jumped from his shoulder and started circling the field while the game went on.
Fans on the Auburn side started to cheer “war eagle” when they saw the eagle circling and after the game ended with Auburn victorious, the eagle supposedly crashed into the center of the field and died. Since then, “war eagle” has become not only a battle cry for the Auburn sports teams, but also a greeting among Auburn students and alumni.
The Auburn War Eagle Today
In continuing the War Eagle tradition of having a live eagle circle the field at every game, Auburn University keeps and trains a golden eagle which is always named War Eagle. The current bird is War Eagle VII, nicknamed Nova. This golden eagle replaced the previous one, War Eagle VI, who was known as Tiger. The War Eagle continues to be a powerful symbol for Auburn University today and can be frequently seen on T-shirts and around campus.
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