Wednesday, April 23, 2008

THE KING IS DEAD…

Well, not really, but his horns are all messed up.

The reign of Rameses XVII ended with the terrible flourish of Greek tragedy -- an "Oedipus Rex" set in the world of football and sheep.

After five seasons as the UNC Chapel Hill mascot, the curly-horned monarch was knocked from the throne by a head-butt from his own son Pablo, who hit the elder ram so fiercely that his horn snapped off.

His crown broken, Rameses gets the boot from Mascotville.

Instead, he will spend his final years in exile, grazing with a single horn. He will watch, indignant, as his usurping son rides to Kenan Stadium in his place, newly dubbed Rameses XVIII.

The Rameses line dates to 1924, when UNC's head cheerleader decided the Tar Heels needed a rival to N.C. State's wolf and Georgia's bulldog.

The Hogan family has raised them all save one that was donated in 1996, a replacement for a Rameses that was butchered alive by a 26-year-old man who later claimed to have been hungry and very drunk.

Sibling rivalry is common among royalty, but not so with sheep. Rams and their sons will usually share a pasture in peace, butting heads only in jest or out of lust for a passing ewe.

"I guess they were just tusslin'," Rob Hogan said.

Each ram weighs about 200 pounds, but Pablo is 3 and Rameses is 8. Sheep life tends to flare out at age 10, and the crown must have seemed dazzling and attainable to the ambitious son.

Now Pablo must train to be led on a halter, to ride in a pickup, to endure the pep rallies and sideline noise without breaking a regal pose.

(Edited from News & Observer)

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