KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — June 17th is National Mascot Day and to celebrate, here’s a look at the history of Smokey, the mascot of the University of Tennessee.

Smokey is the beloved mascot of the University. According to UT’s historic timeline, Smokey was introduced in 1953. The University pep club held a contest to pick a coonhound to be the live mascot for the school. Several dogs entered the contest, but the winner was Rev. W. C. “Bill” Brooks prize-winning bluetick coonhound “Brooks’ Blue Smokey.” 

The timeline of Smokey:

Smokey I – In the fall of 1953, Smokey I began his famous career. He was the school’s mascot for the 1953 and 1954 seasons until he tragically passed away in 1955 after being hit by a car.

Smokey II – Smokey II was the son of Smokey I and began his career in 1955. Smokey II had an eventful mascot term. In his beginning season he was “dognapped” from his home by Kentucky students posing as UT Pep Club students requesting him for photos. They sent a postcard to the family saying he was okay and it was all part of a friendly rivalry, he even attended the Kentucky pep rally with the kids who took him. He remained as mascot until 1963, when he sadly passed away after someone fed him an entire chocolate pie at a game.

Smokey III – A descendant of Smokey I, Smokey III was the mascot from 1964 to 1977. He was the mascot under three head coaches Doug Dickey, Bill Battle, and Johnny Majors.

Smokey IV – Smokey IV is the last descendant of Smokey I and served as mascot in 1978 and 1979. During his term, the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity became Smokey’s campus keepers and official handlers for special events. Sadly, Smokey IV died of cancer in 1979.

Smokey V – Smokey V was the official mascot from 1980 to 1983. He was the first Smokey to not descend from Smokey I. He began his mascot career at just 12 months old. According to UT’s Historic timeline, one of his handlers remembered that Smokey V was so little at first his ears dragged the ground. He sadly passed away after being hit by a car in 1984.

Smokey VI – Smokey VI had a scary start to his career being sent to the UT vet after the extreme heat at his first game. That did not stop him, he served as mascot for seven years! He passed away of cancer in December of 1991.

Smokey VII – Smokey VII began service in 1992, but he was found to be too temperamental to be a game day mascot. The decision came into play after he was nipping at the heels of a band member resulting in his retirement in 1994.

Smokey VIII– Smokey VIII had a good mascot run from 1995 to 2003. He was the mascot during the 1998 national championship win for the Vols, but he wasn’t feeling good at the game. After a vet visit it was learned that he had an obstructed colon from eating a hotel washcloth. He still led the Vols on the field and had the cloth removed when they got back to Knoxville. He retired in 2004 and died in 2006 from complications of high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Smokey IX – Smokey IX was mascot from 2003 to 2012. He made headlines when he bit an Alabama player after he fell on him during warmups in 2006. The American Kennel Club recognized the bluetick coonhound as its 162nd registered breed during Smokey IX’s term in 2009. After surgery from a torn ligament, Smokey IX retired after the season in 2012.

Smokey X –  Smokey X began his career in 2013, along with head coach Butch Jones, and is the current mascot for the university. During his term in 2019, the bluetick coonhound became Tennessee’s state dog. He is also the first of a new bloodline, born and raised in Tennessee.

Smokey XI – Introducing Smokey XI! Born in August of 2021, Smokey XI is the son of Smokey X and will be beginning his career soon. He is still in training and will take the role as mascot when his dad retires.