What follows is a brief history lesson of how the famous Goat came to be the official mascot of the United States Naval Academy and what our very own Bill was like in the early years.
Whatever Floats your Goat
Everyone knows goats make the best pets. Think about it. The year is 1890. You’re at sea. You’re short on food, so having a constant supply of milk, cheese and butter (in a time before refrigeration) helps get through the long days. Also, goats are known for their affable nature. Plus, they eat anything, so rather than needing to store special feed, sailors can use pet goats as walking garbage disposals. Goats make perfect shipmates and they have proven as such for naval officers throughout the ages.
The Legend of the First Goat (as a Coat) for USNA
Way back in the 19th Century, according to legend, officers aboard a Navy vessel grew fond of their pet goat, but unfortunately it fell ill and died at sea. Rather than arrange for a burial upon arrival at port, they decided to honor their beloved buck by saving its skin and having it mounted.
So, upon arrival, off they went. Two young naval officers, with the goat skin in tow, to find a taxidermist to honor their late caprine crony. As it turned out, the two ensigns decided to take a detour toward their alma mater and attend a football game. Who could blame them?
At halftime, one of the officers thought it would raise spirits if he took out the skin and romped up and down the sidelines wearing the coat of the late goat. Turns out his hunch was right, and his antics drummed up roars of laughter and frolic. Navy won that game, and the victory was attributed to the positive spirit of the late, revered goat.
El Cid Cements the Goat in Navy History
The next goat sighting at a USNA football game was in 1893. This time, alive and well. A live goat, by the name of El Cid (the Chief) was gifted by young naval officers aboard the US ship New York to the midshipmen for the fourth Army-Navy game. With the presence of El Cid, West Point was defeated by our Midshipmen and the goat found itself the official mascot of the USNA for centuries to come.
First Rivalry in the 20th Century
The first Army-Navy game of the 1900s brought together the mule and the goat for the first time as official mascots in Philadelphia. This time, the goat, borrowed again from the US ship New York, wore a fine blanket with a gold “NAVY” embellishment on both sides. The mule was also decorated in Army attire and its message was “No Ships for Me” on one side and “I’m a bit of a kicker myself” on the other. Unfortunately for West Point, no mule gear would’ve helped them earn a victory. The Midshipmen won 11-7, and the victory was again partially attributed to the presence and prestige of the goat.
On the train ride back to the Naval Academy, the goat was led on a victory lap and did not leave the midshipmen until they reached Baltimore. It was then that the goat was dubbed the now celebrated name "Bill." The name was borrowed from a pet goat kept by Commander Colby M. Chester, Commandant of Midshipmen from 1891-1894.
Fast Facts about Early Bill the Goats
Bill II – had two cowardly cat companion mascots. Navy lost that year, and goat enthusiasts blame the joint attention on the cats.
Bill V – after four consecutive losses in 1905, this angora Bill from Princeton, NJ brought the Midshipmen a deadlocked 6-6 tie game.
"Three-to-Nothing Jack Dalton" – originally called Bill, he was named after the star player whose field goals helped Navy defeat Army 3-0 for two successive years.
Bill VI – after years of defeat, Navy ran an ad in an Annapolis newspaper looking for “the meanest and fiercest goat possible” to bring victory over Army. Bill VI was the one, and he brought one win to the midshipmen over West Pointers that year.
Bill VIII – with horns painted blue and gold, this goat went to New York for the Rivalry game. He was a large, white goat with a wicked eye. Given all the comforts a goat would need to ensure a win, he was given an entire hotel room filled with straw. Bill VIII returned to Annapolis with a victory that year and remained with Navy for several more seasons.
Top Billing for Years to Come
Bill the Goat is now an established household name in many Naval and military families and people enjoy the presence of a live goat at games, especially the Army-Navy games. USNA now ensures that two goats are ready to be designated the famed name of “Bill”.
The current Bill the Goats are Bill XXXVI and Bill XXXVII. Both attended the 2018 Army-Navy Football Game.
Get your very own Goat Gear by shopping here at Navyonline.com. Every cent of purchase proceeds goes back to supporting the Brigade of Midshipmen, and isn’t that what it’s all about?