How Bobby the Antelope Became One of the British Army’s Cutest Mascots

On June 24, 1997, a slightly uncommon Lance Corporal was awarded the British Military’s Lengthy Service and Good Conduct Medal at a proper ceremony on the Tower of London—his title was Bobby, and he was an Indian blackbuck antelope. He was one in all a protracted line of antelopes, all named Bobby, who loved distinguished careers as mascots representing one in all Britain’s oldest infantry regiments for greater than 200 years—even when the honored animals have been susceptible to headbutting unsuspecting troopers as soon as in awhile.

The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, rebadged because the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers in Could 1963 and amalgamated into the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers on St. George’s Day on April 23, 1968, was the sixth oldest infantry regiment within the British Military’s historical past. The regiment’s origins date again to 1674 when it was fashioned by Prince William of Orange. It accompanied him to England in 1688 throughout the Superb Revolution. The regiment has an illustrious army historical past and fought throughout the Struggle of the Spanish Succession, the Peninsula Wars in Spain and France, the Frontier Wars in South Africa, the Indian Mutiny, the Struggle of 1812, the Boer Struggle, and each World Wars. King William IV bestowed the title of “Royal” on the regiment in 1832, and it grew to become often called the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1881.

The regimental badge image was the antelope. In keeping with lore, this image was first tailored from a Moorish banner captured throughout the Battle of Saragossa, however had additionally been a logo of England’s Lancastrian kings and will probably have been used as a consequence of its royal significance.

After the regiment was stationed in India, it started to undertake male blackbuck antelopes as stay mascots between 1825 and 1841 and subsequently to obtain them as presents from native maharajas. This custom lasted for hundreds of years.

Bobby the Antelope, newly “liberated” from Hamburg zoo, stands earlier than the regimental flag in Germany in June 1945. All Bobbies have been outfitted with regalia together with a coat and detachable silver horn caps for regimental parades. (Imperial Struggle Museums)

The blackbuck antelope, which bears an in depth resemblance to a gazelle, is native to the plains and light-weight forests of India and Nepal. The species is small and sleek, and the males are recognized for his or her darkish coats, uniquely striped faces and lengthy spiraling horns. Among the many quickest land animals on the Indian subcontinent, the blackbuck antelope has been revered by various individuals of varied areas since time immemorial. Its picture seems in Mughal-era work. The creature additionally has sacred connotations in Hinduism, and is usually depicted as a automobile of deities together with Krishna and the wind god, Vayu. The blackbuck was additionally used as a heraldic emblem for numerous princely states of India.

The regiment’s battalion primarily based in India continued to obtain antelope mascots as presents from native rulers, whereas the house battalion in Nice Britain acquired new four-legged companions from the London Zoo. Some early antelopes within the mascot dynasty have been christened “Billy,” and “Charlie,” however the title “Bobby” withstood the take a look at of time.

Each Bobby had a powerful “uniform” when representing the regiment on formal events. This consisted of a specifically made coat embroidered with the regimental crest and a collar which allowed two handlers to information him with two lengthy, brilliant white leashes. His horns have been embellished with detachable silver suggestions for parades. His coat was royal blue, and later was modified to an imposing scarlet after the regiment was amalgamated into the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in 1968.

The small antelopes proved to be curious and feisty. They usually nibbled at something inside attain, plucking buttons off close by troopers’ uniforms. They have been additionally recognized for brandishing their curly horns—sending troopers leaping to keep away from getting poked in delicate areas. Child Bobbies required hands-on care and bottle-feeding. Cared for by two handlers, the antelopes got roomy pens, commonly exercised and dined upon biscuits, horse nuts, crackers and generally cigarettes. The final Bobby reportedly loved “soccer, Good biscuits and hour-long walks,” in keeping with the BBC. 

Germans watch with bewilderment as a British soldier takes his regimental mascot, Bobby the Antelope, for a stroll in Petershagen in 1945. Many regiments of the British Military have long-standing traditions of preserving animals as mascots, with different examples together with goats, horses, ponies and canines. (Imperial Struggle Museums)

One notably well-known Bobby was “liberated” from Hamburg zoo by the regiment’s 2nd Battalion on the shut of World Struggle II in early 1945. The lads constructed him a big and comfy new enclosure at their headquarters and took him for walks, attracting the stares of baffled German onlookers.

Because the regimental mascot, it was hoped that every Bobby would preserve a dignified demeanor throughout ceremonial appearances. But the impish antelopes didn’t at all times really feel like being dignified. As soon as whereas passing King George V on parade, Bobby had the insolence to sit down within the presence of His Majesty and chomp mulishly on grass, bringing your entire procession to a halt. One other antelope infamously butted a Drum Main within the rear finish throughout what must have been a solemn army tattoo efficiency. The unlucky soldier was left with torn trousers.

The custom of preserving animal companions is prevalent within the British Military. Regiments might hold animals as official mascots who’re cared for at public expense or as regimental pets. Different well-known mascots embrace canines, ponies, horses and goats.

The final Bobby the Antelope handed away in 2005. Resulting from the truth that blackbuck antelopes at the moment are an endangered species, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is now represented by a British Otterhound named George. Nonetheless, Bobby nonetheless stays part of the regiment’s life, because the British Military does its utmost to protect time-honored regimental traditions. The image of the antelope crest remains to be worn at the moment on the buttons of the Fusiliers’ No. 1 and No. 2 gown uniforms.


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