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Traveler at USC

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Traveler at USC

Traveler takes the field before a USC home game at the Coliseum.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
USC fans love him. Visiting teams (and their fans) most certainly don't. But no matter your feelings about him, there's no denying that Traveler—the pure white horse that charges up and down the sidelines at Trojans home games—is one of the most recognized mascots in college football.

And though it may seem as though Traveler has been running around the Coliseum on Autumn Saturdays forever, he actually first appeared only in 1961.

Before that, believe it or not, USC’s mascot was a dog. Three different dogs, actually. And one of them was named "Tirebiter." He got hit by a car.

Origins:

In 1961, USC director of special events Bob Jani was enjoying the Rose Parade when he noticed a striking white horse marching by. Jani tracked down the horse’s rider, a named Richard Saukko, and asked if Saukko might be interested in entertaining fans at the next USC home game.

Saukko accepted the invitation and made his first appearance in the Trojans’ 1961 opener against Georgia Tech.

Saukoo would continue riding Traveler at USC games for the next 27 years, eventually retiring after the 1988 season. In the years since, several other riders have taken over his duties, including Saukoo’s stepson, Chuck O’Donnell.

Why White?:

There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why all of the Travelers—USC is currently on Traveler VII—have been white. But they all have been.

Interestingly, however, and unlike Georgia’s famous Ugas—which have all been English bulldogs from the same bloodline—the Travelers haven’t even been of the same breed.

The Travelers all have the same job, though: Whenever USC scores (which, lately, has been often) Traveler and his rider (who wears a costume modeled after the Tommy Trojan statue on USC’s campus) gallop up and down the sideline while the famed USC Marching Band plays “Conquest.”

Before Traveler:

USC’s mascot wasn’t always Traveler.

No, before there was the horse, there was a dog—a dog with the unfortunate name of "Tirebiter I." Tirebiter started walking the sidelines at USC in 1940, was kidnapped by UCLA fans in 1947 (but eventually returned to Southern Cal), and then suffered an early demise in 1950, when he got hit by a car. After Tirebiter, USC brought on three other dog mascots: George II served in the role from 1950-1952, George II in 1953 and George IV in 1957. Then Traveler arrived and that was that.

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