Peruna: Proof that size isn’t everything
Published: Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
With two Mustangs and a Shetland pony representing SMU at football games, it may be confusing to distinguish which is the real mascot. Peruna, the Shetland pony, claims the mascot title.
In 1929, theology student Cy Barcus saw a little black horse running through a field and told the football coach, Ray Morrison, about it. When he brought the pony to a pep rally, Peruna became the school's mascot.
Listed under the Top 100 College Football Traditions, Peruna first appeared at a football game against Texas A&M on Nov. 4, 1932. Peruna got his name from the famous Prohibition alcohol-laced elixir, Peruna Tonic, which was popular for its "kick."
Not only did Peruna try to kick Texas Tech's horse, Misty, but he also brought the University of Texas's Longhorn Bevo to the ground, and he defecated at midfield on rival TCU's new field turf. More notably, Peruna is known for killing the Fordham's mascot by kicking the ram in the head.
"He's a feisty mustang with a lot of heart. I don't think you could find a better mascot for the school," Brad Ray, a current Peruna handler, said.
Another Peruna Handler and Student Body President Jake Torres said, "Peruna represents everything about the University... He is strong, determined, resilient and a very energetic horse, much like the people he represents."
Peruna has been present at every home game since 1932, standing behind an end zone during the game. The handlers run Peruna across the field after every SMU score.
During a 1959 UT – SMU game, UT supposedly "horse-napped" Peruna and displayed him at the game with mane and tail painted burnt orange. Little did they know, George Richards, a past handler, was driving down the highway to the game with Peruna in tow--they stole the wrong horse!
Since 1993, Peruna's stable has been kept secret.
"Obviously not everyone is out to steal and hurt Peruna, but its better to just keep him safe," Ray said.
After the first Peruna, seven other ponies were donated, and continue to be donated, by the Culwell family.
"The most rewarding aspect of working with Peruna is watching the way people react around him." Torres said, "Children absolutely love him and it is great to see them run up to him to pet him. Alumni and students also really enjoy seeing him and its great to see the excitement he brings to everyone that sees him."
Peruna also appears at every commencement for incoming freshman and graduating seniors, travels with the Mustang Band and led the band during George W. Bush's Inauguration Parade.
However, since Oct. 17, 2009, Peruna has shared the field with two Mustangs.
Some alumni and students wonder whether the athletic department wants to eventually ditch Peruna for the Mustangs.
"The feisty energy of Peruna and the powerful presence of our new mustangs will underscore the football team's theme of ‘All Grit. No quit,'" SMU athletic director Steve Orsini said.
Madeleine Pickens, wife of Dallas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, donated the two Mustangs. She founded the National Wild Horse Foundation; an organization that provides permanent refuge for feral horses that would otherwise be penned up for life or put down.
"A Revolution Regarding the Gift of Mustangs to the University an the Future of Peruna as our Mascot," a Student Senate article written by Torres, Jack Bengage and Alex Ehmke said "the student body supports Peruna as SMU's only mascot," and "the student body wishes Peruna to be the only figure symbolically representing SMU at university athletic events, regardless of whether any additional figures are considered official or unofficial mascots or figures."
Ray said, "I think he is … the only proper mascot for the school."