Why Is an Owl the Mascot of Purdue University?


Quick Answer

Purdue University's mascot is not an owl, but a Victorian-style locomotive known as the Boilermaker Special. OWL is an acronym that refers to Purdue’s free Online Writing Lab for grammar and writing mechanics.

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Full Answer

Purdue, founded in 1869 as an agricultural and mechanical university, did not have a mascot until 1939. The school chose a locomotive to reflect its engineering and railroad background. The nickname Boilermaker came about in response to a rumor that the university enrolled muscular boilermakers to play on their football team.

As of 2015, there have been seven Boilermaker Specials. The university scraps each train after replacement, keeping a single piece to incorporate into the next Boilermaker. Purdue Reamer Club operates and maintains the train and uses it in fundraising events.

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