Which story do you believe is true about the University of Alabama mascot, Big Al?

Big Al is the University of Alabama’s mascot and has been associated with the U of A since the 1930’s.

Alabama elephants ca. 1950s (found on rollbamaroll) 

Many versions of elephant mascot

There are many versions as to how the elephant became associated with the University of Alabama.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Settlement: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 2)

The following version was posted in the Members of the Birmingham-Jefferson Historical Society in the newsletter October 13, 2009:

One of the two oldest, continuously-operating, businesses in Birmingham is ROSENBERGERS’S BIRMINGHAM TRUNK,INC. Opened in 1897 by J. D. Rosenberger, in an era when travel was by horse and wagon, train and ship, the need for durable and fashionable trunks, suitcases and “grips” afforded a needed business opportunity.Rosenbergers_Birmingham_Trunk_Factory2

The downtown Rotary Club was founded in 1913, made up of respected business and professional men. J.D. Rosenberger was a founding member; and he was a member of the Board of Directors in 1914, 1921 and 1922.

In 1927, The University of Alabama football team had an outstanding record, and was invited to play in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. The train trip across the country took many days for the team to travel. As a proud fan, J.D. Rosenberger, had given each member of the team a new suitcase. A name tag was attached to each suitcase, also provided by Mr. Rosenberger; and each tag had the Rosenberger Birmingham Trunk Company logo, which was a red elephant, exploiting the name “trunk”.rosenberger larger

As the team traveled across the country, and when they arrived at Pasadena, they were met by newspaper and magazine reporters, as would be expected. The tags with the red elephants were noted on all of the team members’ suitcases, and the reporters mistook the meaning, thinking that they represented the team logo. So the elephant team mascot was born!

University of Alabama Athletics version

This is in part the one from the University of Alabama Athletics website:

The tradition started in 1930 according to the University of Alabama Athletics website form a story Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote about the Alabama-Mississippi game he had witnessed in Tuscaloosa four days earlier.

Strupper wrote:

“At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fans in the stands bellowed, “Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,” and out stamped this Alabama varsity.”

Strupper and other writers continued to refer to the Alabama lineman as “Red Elephants,” the color referred to the crimson jerseys.

According to the website “Roll Bama Roll”, in the 1940s an “elephant mascot named Alamite was a regular sight on gamedays in Tuscaloosa” and “Alamite would also bear that year’s queen onto the field prior to the game as this photo from the 1947 contest against LSU show.”Alabama elephant in parade 1950s

What do you believe? Do you know of any other versions? 


  1. www.rollbamaroll.com  
  2. Wikipedia
  3. University of Alabama Athletics website
  4. Birmingham-Jefferson Historical Society in the newsletter October 13, 2009

See historical books by Donna R. Causey

Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) – A novel inspired by the experiences of the Cottingham family who immigrated from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Bibb County, Alabama

Filled with drama, suspense, humor, and romance, DISCORDANCE continues the family saga from the Tapestry of Love series with the children of Mary Dixon who married Thomas Cottingham.

Inspired by true events and the Cottingham family that resided in 17th century Somerset, Maryland and Delaware, colonial America comes alive with pirate attacks, religious discord, and governmental disagreements in the pre-Revolutionary War days of America.

Orphaned at an early age, the Cottngham siblings face pirate attacks, illness, injuries, and the disappearance of a loved as they try to establish their lives in the wilds of early America. Will they prevail or be torn apart over the issue of slavery?




  1. I’m not a bama fan … But I like the first one better!

  2. Being a Bama fan for 55 years, I have always gone with the University of Alabama’s explanation.1930..Wallace Wade was the Head coach.The elephant name was first given to them by the sports writer from Atlanta. This is also documented in the Bear Bryant Museum & the University Archives. Roll Tide!

    1. I guess all the believers of the first story have never been to a BAMA game. The thundering feet when they enter the stadium is enough for me to know where the name comes from. Roll Tide Roll

  3. I’ve always assumed the 2nd of the two stories. The first always seemed to me like it was a little rude. I’m sure that even if the reporter did make a mistake in thinking that the elephants were a mascot that the southern gentleman of Alabama would not have made it clear that the luggage was a gift. It just seems… A bit off. It would be somewhat unprofessional to talk about someone’s mistake as being what created the mascot. I just think Alabama has more tradition than that.

  4. Always thought the first one was the correct write up. RTR!!!

  5. I like to think that the second story is true… True strength and dominance, even back then!!! RTR!!!

  6. Lame! Lol. This was one deciding factor when i was kid on who to pull for. I read up on both teams, but fell in love the the story for auburns war eagle tradition

  7. Yea lame for sure but so is tide

  8. Lame elephant still crushes baddest tiger.

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  10. How cruel!! Are those chains I see!!!

    1. Yes. Elephants do not belong in captivity, but if they are where they can reach people, they are restrained somehow for human safety.

    2. How about elephants safety???

    3. That’s another l reason why they don’t belong in captivity.

  11. the second story is the true version.

  12. I heard they have an elephant mascot because they are from “Tusk”aloosa!

  13. The second story sounds a little more believable to me. I agree with Jeremiah, I think tradition runs deep and that makes more sense. Not a fan of seeing chains on the elephants in the pictures.

  14. I always liked the idea that it came from the Mark Brothers movie. Where Groucho as Capt. Spalding says:
    “I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas i will never know. We tried to take the tusks out but they were too tight… Of course in Alabama the Tuscaloosa. “

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