The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

Who’s your mascot?

Donated mustangs will make their debut alongside longtime SMU mascot Peruna. Students and alumni debate if they can co-exist in the hearts of fans.
Trained mustang and rider during the 1960’s, the last time a mustang and Peruna were together. Photo Courtesy SMU Athletics

Trained mustang and rider during the 1960’s, the last time a mustang and Peruna were together. Photo Courtesy SMU Athletics

For the first time since the 1960s, Peruna the pony will have some company racing down the field after SMU scores.

Peruna, who is technically a Shetland pony, will be running side by side with two Mustangs donated by philanthropist Madeleine Pickens, wife of businessman T. Boone Pickens, as part of her campaign to save the remaining mustangs in the United States, according to a letter from Athletic Director Steve Orsini.

The goal for Pickens and her non-profit organization, National Wild Horse Foundation, is to establish a sanctuary to protect and care for the 33,000 wild horses in holding pens and the 25,000 that currently roam free. The foundation is partnering with SMU because of the logical connection with the university’s mascot, the Mustang.

The plan is for Pickens to present the new mustangs to President R. Gerald Turner and SMU head coach June Jones at half time to join Peruna on the sidelines.

However, many current students and SMU alumni have become attached to the tradition of Peruna, now on Peruna VIII. The idea of additional mascots running alongside the Shetland pony does not sit well with them.

“Peruna is much like this school: small in stature but full of fight,” May 2007 graduate Paul Vattakavanich said. “By accepting this gift it shows where the heart of the administration lies: with whomever has the most money.”

Fifth-year Bret Oswald said: “The mustang should never replace Peruna. There is a lot of history and tradition behind Peruna and I feel like it would be wrong to replace him. No other mascot has the reputation that ours does.”

Orsini responded to the concerns of many alumni in his letter posted to SMU fanboards.

“First and foremost, let me stress that Peruna, the black Shetland pony who made his first appearance at a campus pep rally in 1932, is and will continue to be our mascot,” Orsini said.

According to Orsini, the new mustangs will be a valued addition to the tradition of Peruna and two mascots together will represent a metaphor for Mustang athletics.

“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,'” he said. “Peruna represents a proud tradition, and the rescued Mustangs have shown the rugged determination to survive and thrive – a fitting metaphor for Mustang athletics.”

The lore of Peruna has grown over the years. The most notable story told about Peruna occurred during a game against the Fordham Rams. The ram handlers led the mascot too close to Peruna and with one swift kick to the head, killed the Fordham mascot.

Peruna has been known to be feisty. He also kicked Bevo, The University of Texas Longhorn mascot in the side, knocking him over, and also attempted to mount the Texas Tech mascot horse. Peruna even christened the new field turf in TCU’s stadium by defecating on it in the middle of a game.

Peruna is truly a wild horse, but the mustangs donated to the university have been trained, working at the nerves of some alumni.

“I really find the most frustrating thing about the entire ordeal is that these aren’t even Mustangs! If you train a horse to be ridden, it can no longer be a Mustang,” December 2008 graduate Mat Busby said. “Peruna, an unbroken horse, has been the true mascot of SMU for nearly 80 years and should absolutely continue to be.”

It is not just the SMU alumni that are chiming in though. While SMU does not boast the highest student attendance at football games, many of those that do go appreciate the tradition of Peruna and the energy he brings to the games.

“While I think some people feel that a mustang would be appropriate because we are the SMU Mustangs, and while some believe that a mustang and Peruna can coexist on a field because it was done in the 1960s, having two mascots on the field completely different from each other looks ridiculous,” senior Daniel Heckman said. “You don’t see schools throughout the country having two mascots, just one.”

Orsini said the mustangs’ future involvement in game activities is “yet to be determined,” but says the gesture is an important one to bring attention to the cause.

“These horses will have a good home and represent our support of the Foundation’s commitment saving these American icons,” Orsini said in his letter.

Not all alumni are opposed to the notion of bringing the mustangs to SMU.

“I think it is an exciting and unique opportunity for the school to expand its reach and join with Mrs. Pickens’ outstanding efforts with the National Wild Horse Foundation,” former captain of the SMU cheer team and 2005 graduate Ryan Trimble said.

“Peruna can still lead parades and run the length of the field after touchdowns, but as the saying goes, I think many SMU faithfuls should heed the age-old advice and not look a gift horse in the mouth,” he said.

Peruna races across the field with a handler after an SMU score. Photo Courtesy SMU Athletics

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