Published: Nov. 5, 2021 By

In Sept. 3, 2021, the Buffs’ football home opener, 11,537 students filed into Folsom Field, the biggest turnout since CU played Utah in 2016. 

Fans hummed with enthusiasm for their first in-person football game since late 2019, but there was another reason, too — Ralphie VI’s debut. 

Flanked by four student Ralphie Runners, the almost-500-pound buffalo officially ran for the first time before the CU Buffs took on the Northern Colorado Bears.  

At not even 18 months old, the new Ralphie ran the signature horseshoe loop across the field under a magnificent Colorado sunset. CU fans expressed their immediate love for “baby Ralphie” on social media. 

“It just feels right,” tweeted Brent DePaepe, creative director for CU Athletics.

The Buffs won 35-7. 

Will Isham (Fin’80), his daughter Drew Isham (Comm’13) and their family donated the young buffalo, born May 27, 2020, to the university in November 2020. The family owns a ranch with buffalo in Chadron, Nebraska, and has been in the buffalo business for two decades. The calf was abandoned by her mother, said Drew, and the family knew she belonged at CU. 

“Being in a family that has buffalo, it’s always been something we wanted to do,” said Drew. 

CU Athletics officially retired 13-year-old Ralphie V in November 2019, and news of her replacement was scant over the two-year period. Isham’s former sorority sister, Sara Abdulla (EnvSt, Psych’13) — student program manager at the Alumni Association — connected the family with Taylor Stratton (EBio, EnvSt, Geog’13), manager of the Ralphie Live Mascot Program, who was searching for buffalo to join the program. A live buffalo has run in Folsom Field at football games since 1966, and she wanted the tradition to continue. 

“Without the generous support of the Isham family, there would be no Ralphie VI,” said Stratton. 

Ralphie VI could reach an adult weight of 1,300 pounds or more. She lives on the undisclosed ranch of former Ralphies, where she’s given the best treatment. Her favorite part of the day? Mealtime.  

“Whenever she hears us open the container, she puts her tail up and starts running over and grunting,” said Stratton. “She’s a more vocal buffalo, so people will have a better idea what sounds buffaloes make.”

Details surrounding Ralphie VI’s stage name — Ralphie V was “Blackout” —  were being finalized as of press time. But Buffs nation has already welcomed her to the family. 

“Without a doubt, the buffalo is the world’s best mascot,” said Will. 

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Photo by Glenn Asakawa