One of college football's largest and longest-tenured mascots is being forced to retire after becoming a bit too fast for her human handlers, according to team officials.
Ralphie V, the 1,200-pound real live buffalo mascot for the University of Colorado (CU) football team, has been the second-longest-running mascot in school history -- playing in 76 games and leading the team onto the field for 12 seasons.
Previous Ralphies have usually slowed down when they got older, but Ralphie V has gotten faster and stronger as time goes on. She's become so fast, that she's started to create safety concerns for herself and her handlers.
"With past Ralphies, as they aged, their speed typically decreased; with Ralphie V, she has been so excited to run that she was actually running too fast, which created safety concerns for her and her handlers," according to a university news release. "She also wasn't consistently responding to cues from her handlers, and her temperament was such that she was held back from leading the team out for CU's last two home games against USC and Stanford."
Ralphie V will make her final appearance as a spectator for the Buffalos' final home game against Washington on Nov. 23. Her career will be celebrated in a game that won't see her run into the field.
It's the 53rd season in school history that a live buffalo has led the team onto the field during the start of games, as well as after halftime.
"Ralphie V had an outstanding career as the face and symbol of our great university and athletic department," said John Graves, the Ralphie Program Manager since 2015 and one-time handler as a CU student.
The release added that Graves has been around Ralphie V since she was six-months-old and was one of her handlers during the first time she led the team on to Folsom Field back on Sept. 6, 2008.
"It has truly been an honor to care for and work with Ralphie V the past 13 years," Graves said. "Being able to see her and spend time with her each and every day is the best part of my job. She has such a fun and energetic personality, and while I will miss her leading the team onto the field, I still have the privilege of being able to spend time with her every day at her ranch."
As previous buffalo mascots have done, Ralphie V will retire with a companion buffalo to a ranch maintained by the school's mascot program -- where she will live out the rest of her days.
Known as "the queen of campus," Ralphie V will continue to make public appearances on behalf of the university until an eventual replacement is picked for the 2020 season.
Graves and athletic staff have been preparing for the buffalo change for some time now and are currently in the process of identifying potential candidates, the release stated.
Ralphie V's successor will unsurprisingly be named Ralphie VI.
"Ralphie V has served the department and the university well," Rick George, the school's athletic director said on Tuesday. "She has been a very special buffalo and has truly been adored by many. We hope she lives for many years to come and look forward to finding her successor."