Beta (dog)

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Artistic depictions of Beta (on the left) and Seal, the other twentieth century canine mascot of the University of Virginia's football team. Reproduced from VIRGINIA Magazine.

Beta was the first of two unofficial canine mascots adopted by the University of Virginia's football team during the twentieth century. Upon his death in 1939, he was buried with much fanfare in the University of Virginia Cemetery.


Beta was a stray, black and white mongrel dog who was first seen wandering the campus of the University of Virginia in the 1920's. Because he often spent the night at or near the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house (now belonging to the Delta Upsilon fraternity), he was affectionately dubbed "Beta" by the student community. He was said to regularly appear at college parties and socials (where he was often fed hamburgers and beer by the students) and attended a course on Plato so frequently that his name was called in the roll. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity would go on to purchase his license at least once.

At one point, following an away football game against the University of Georgia, Beta was accidentally left behind in Athens, Georgia. Numerous UVA students mourned his loss, only for the tired and hungry dog to scratch at the back door of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house about two weeks later. He had apparently made the trek of over 500 miles between Athens and Charlottesville in record time in order to return to the University of Virginia.[1]

Gravestone of Beta in the University of Virginia Cemetery. Reproduced from Roadside America.

On April 6, 1939 Beta was hit by an automobile on Rugby Road and had to be put down. An estimated 1,000 students marched in his funeral procession from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house to the University of Virginia Cemetery, where he was buried with great distinction.

Seal, the second canine mascot of the university's football team, was buried next to Beta in 1953.


Beta was frequently hailed by the University as the nation's "No. 1 college dog." He was mentioned on a nationwide broadcast of the Pontiac radio show and once appeared in Look magazine.[2]


  1. Web. Beta, Magical Mongrel, Roadside America
  2. Web. Traditions, Virginia Cavaliers