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War Eagle at Auburn University

Why Fans of the Auburn Tigers Chant 'War Eagle'


War Eagle

Auburn's War Eagle is one of the most iconic symbols in all of college football.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images War Eagle

War Eagle soars over Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
It is one of the most iconic moments in all of college football: A capacity crowd of nearly 90,000 at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium standing and cheering as a live eagle soars over the field and “War Eagle” is hammered out by the Auburn University Marching Band.

But for newcomers to SEC football, the “War Eagle” phenomenon can also be rather confusing.

Besides, some might ask, aren’t Auburn teams called the Tigers?

The answer, of course, is yes.

But while Aubie, Auburn’s tiger mascot, remains the official symbol of Tiger athletics, “War Eagle” may actually be more synonymous with the university. The “War Eagle” cry, the song and the eagle’s dramatic pregame flight comprise one of the most unique traditions, and one of the most electric moments, in all of college football.



Like many other college football traditions, details about the origins of “War Eagle” are sketchy at best. There are, in fact, as many as five different stories about just where “War Eagle” came from.

None is quite as mythic, however, as the following.

During the first-ever Georgia-Auburn game back in 1892, there was in the crowd an aging Civil War vet. The old solider brought with him that day his pet eagle—a bird he had found on a battlefield during the war, nursed back to health, and eventually adopted as his own. At some point during the game, though, the eagle leapt from the soldier’s arm and soared high above the field. While the eagle hovered overhead, Auburn took the lead with a dramatic touchdown drive, and students began chanting “War Eagle!” Auburn won the game, but the poor eagle didn’t have quite as good a day: Legend has it that as soon as the game ended, he took a nosedive onto the field and died. Still, he became an instant legend—and gave birth to the “War Eagle” tradition.

Is this the real “War Eagle” story? Maybe. Maybe not. But most Auburn fans choose to accept it.

Besides, the other explanations aren’t nearly as interesting: One of them, for instance, states that “War Eagle” originated from an Auburn pep rally decades back, when one student misheard what another was saying as “War Eagle,” and began chanting it, too.



Auburn fans count seven War Eagles in their history.

The original (1892), of course, lasted only a year. A second War Eagle appeared in 1930, and helped the Tigers to an upset victory over South Carolina that year, but what happened to him afterward isn’t known, even to this day.

Starting in 1960, though, Auburn officials began taking a little better care of the birds. War Eagle III lasted from 1960-1964 and was followed by War Eagle IV (1964-1980), War Eagle V (1981-1986), War Eagle VI (1986-2006) and War Eagle VII (2006 - Present). The current eagle is named “Nova” and was born in the Montgomery, Ala. Zoo in 1999.


The Song

“War Eagle” is the official fight song of Auburn University.

The song was written in the mid-1950s by New York songwriters Robert Allen and Al Stillman, and after it was introduced to the Auburn community in 1955, it replaced the original school fight song, “The Auburn Victory March.”

The lyrics of the song are as follows:

War...Eagle, fly down the field, Ever to conquer, never to yield.
War...Eagle fearless and true. Fight on, you orange and blue.
Go! Go! Go!
On to vic'try, strike up the band,
Give 'em hell, give 'em hell.
Stand up and yell, Hey! War...Eagle, win for Auburn,
Power of Dixie Land!

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