Nickname Established: 1893 ,
Student newspaper christened The Tar Heel.
Mascot: Horned Dorset Ram
What is a Tar Heel? Generally, a Tar Heel is a resident of North Carolina, which is known as the Tar Heel state. Though the exact origins of the word aren't known, it can be traced back to colonial times when North Carolina supplied the British navy with tar to seal the bottom of their ships. It was initially used as an insult, similar to how "redneck" is used today. (Though, if you've seen CMTV's My Big Redneck Wedding, you know being called a redneck is a compliment to some people. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
There are also a few legends surrounding the origins of the term. During the Revolutionary War tar was dumped in a river to prevent the British from crossing. The Brits got tar on their heels and thought connected that outcome to anyone wading through the state's rivers.
Various anecdotes about North Carolinian troops holding their ground, as if they had tar on their heels, emerged from the Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee was said to have referred to the N.C. troops as Tar Heel boys. A letter was also found citing Gen. Lee as saying the fighting men from North Carolina stood as if they had tar on their heels.
Originally a derogatory term, the name Tar Heel is now worn with dignity - except by Duke and N.C. State fans. Unless they're able to look beyond the word's collegiate use and embrace it as a state wide nickname. Wonder that the stats are on that?
If the team name is the Tar Heels, why do they have a ram for mascot? Inspired by the animal mascots of N.C. State (Wolfpack) and Georgia (Bulldogs), Vic Huggins, the UNC head cheerleader in 1924, proposed the idea of a ram. He chose a ram to honor UNC football player Jack "Battering Ram" Merritt. The athletic business manager at the time, Charlie Woolen, approved Huggins' request for $25 to buy a ram. The first ram came from Texas, arriving for the November 8th football game, which the Tar Heels won 3-0.
If the UNC team name had been christened more recently, a large anthropomorphic foot with tar on the heel might be cavorting about the sidelines, but 1924 was the year of the ram - for UNC anyway. (It was the year of the rat on the Chinese calendar, but I digress.)
Why is the ram named Rameses? Expecting some kind of covert connection to the Egyptian pharaohs ala National Treasure? Not so much. From what I gather, Rameses is Rameses simply because that was the first ram's name.
Random Assocations and Observations
*The polled (hornless) version of the Dorset ram was developed by UNC's rival N.C. State. Coincidence or consipiracy? Afterall, hornless rams are even more susceptible to wolf attacks.
*Speaking of the N.C. State Wolfpack, the choice of a ram is a bit ironic for a school whose in state rival has a wolfpack for a mascot -not just one wolf, but a pack. Perhaps that just speaks to the tenacity of Tar Heels.
*As a Texan, I humbly noted the original UNC ram came from Texas. Wonder if Bevo and Rameses came from the same neck of the woods?
*Did anyone catch the name of the UNC business manager who approved the ram's purchase? It was Woolen.
Powell, William S. "What's In a Name? Why We're All Called Tar Heels." Official UNC University Libraries Site.
"Tar Heels." Wikipedia.
"Traditions." UNC official site.
"North Carolina Tar Heels." Wikipedia.
Official UNC at Chapel Hill Site
Official UNC University Libraries Site
Official UNC Cheerleading Site
Official UNC Kids Club
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