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History of Ralphie, Boulder’s Live Buffalo Mascot

Singing along to the fight song with the marching band, rushing the field after a tiebreaking win, breaking out the perfect black and gold outfits – football games at CU are practically holidays because of all these traditions, but by far one of the best is watching Ralphie run. Seeing our live buffalo mascot take the field before football games is an integral part of the CU experience, and on September 3, 2021, fans filled the stadium anxious to meet the newest member of the Boulder community: Ralphie VI.

The excitement about Ralphie is nothing new – ever since Ralphie I joined CU in 1966, the energy of football games has been electric. CU is known across the country for being the school that runs a live buffalo around the football field before each home game, and we have taken that label with pride! Here is a brief history of Ralphie, and the special role she (yes, she’s a female) plays at CU.

ralphie i – “ralphie”

The tradition all began with Ralphie I in 1966. After spending a few football games watching from the sidelines, head coach Eddie Crowder suggested that Ralphie charge the field before the team. Ralphie ran for the first time on September 16, 1967, and the rest is history. Ralphie was a hit immediately, becoming so popular that she was crowned Colorado’s 1971 Homecoming Queen. By the end of Ralphie I’s career, the Ralphie Handlers were known for their signature Western clothing, with their cowboy boots substituted for athletic shoes to help them keep up with a full-speed buffalo.

ralphie ii – “moonshine”

Ralphie II took the field for the first time in 1978 during halftime, after Ralphie I ran her final lap during the pregame. She was originally named “Moon” because she was born during a lunar eclipse and spent much of her young life moving around to different ranches. Ralphie II ran from 1978 to 1987. She was expected to retire in 1987, but she passed away after Colorado won against Stanford on September 19 of that same year. 1987 was also the year that Ralphie Handlers received a Varsity Letter, which they have been granted ever since.

ralphie iii – “tequila”

Ralphie III was much bigger and faster than I and II and was nicknamed “Tequila” for her “fiery personality.” Since Ralphie II died unexpectedly, Ralphie III was only given five weeks of training before finishing out the rest of the 1987 season. She was the first Ralphie to wear the famous Ralphie blanket which says “Go Buffaloes” on one side and “Beat ___” (the opposing team) on the other. Ralphie III ran in over 70 CU games, including eight bowls, from 1987 to 1997.

ralphie iv – “rowdy”

Ralphie IV was rescued after being abandoned by her mother, attacked by a coyote, and bottle-fed and raised by the buffalo manager at the ranch where she was born. She was returned to her herd, but after she would not bond with them, she was donated to the university to become Ralphie IV. She made her debut on September 5, 1998 against Colorado State University. Her final run was also against CSU in 2008, and CU (obviously…) won both games by a wide margin. Ralphie IV ran 75 games during her career and enjoyed almost ten years of retirement before she passed away in March 2017.

ralphie v – “blackout”

Ralphie V surpassed the size and speed of the four previous Ralphies, completing her full round in under 25 seconds at her fastest. She first came to CU in 2007 but ran her first season in 2008. Ralphie V wore the Ralphie blanket for awhile, but did not like it so has not worn it since the beginning of her career. Ralphie V made many appearances on campus before football games, including the “Ralphie’s Corral” pre-game parties. After nearly 12 seasons of running with the Buffs, Ralphie retired in November 2019. She is currently in good health and enjoying her retirement and is expected to make public appearances for the university as previous retired Ralphies have done.

ralphie vi

Finally, in 2021, CU welcomed Ralphie VI to Folsom Field. She is just over 15 months old and weighs a little less than 500 pounds (at their full size, the previous Ralphies weighed around 1,300 pounds). After being rejected by her mother at birth, Ralphie VI was raised by a beef cow before coming to the university. To say the crowd was excited to meet her at our first home game is an understatement – the student section was full of loud cheers and chants of “We Want Ralphie!” It’s safe to say that the students already love their new mascot, and she did a great job on her debut run.

fun facts
  • This is the 55th year that CU has had a live buffalo mascot.
  • Ralphie is kept in a hidden location, so that she won’t be harassed by the public or opposing teams.
  • Being a Ralphie Handler is a Varsity sport at CU, with rigorous tryouts and training sessions (and HCCU has interviewed one, too)
  • The NCAA has rated Ralphie’s run the “best entrance in college football.”

Head to one of CU’s six home football games this semester to see Ralphie VI during her debut year at the university! And be sure to follow @cubuffsralphie on Instagram for some bonus Ralphie content.

Jordyn is a junior at CU Boulder double-majoring in music and psychology. When she isn't writing her next article, you can probably find her reading, exploring restaurants around Boulder, or hanging out with her silver lab puppy.
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