For more than 100 years, Boxer has represented the spirit of Pacific University. What does that spirit mean to students today?
Pacific University Mascot, Boxer
Boxer is Pacific University’s legendary mascot. The mysterious dragon-like creature has represented Pacific's spirit, pride and honor for over a century — ever since a bronze Chinese statue was gifted to the university in 1896 by Rev. J.E. Walker, a missionary to China, and his mother. View the BOXER COLLECTION, Pacific University Archives
What is Boxer?
At first glance, Boxer may look like a dog, perhaps with the scales of a dragon and the hooves of a goat. Boxer is most likely a qilin (pronounced chee-lin or ki-rin), a mythical Chinese creature with a lion-like stance, a unicorn-like horn, and deer or ox hooves from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). During this period, qilin were often represented with a dragon head, fish scales, ox hooves and a lion's tail. Qilin are good omens, said to bring wisdom and prosperity to whomever they watch over. Through the years, Boxer has stood as a beloved symbol of the Pacific community and an embodiment of cultural diversity.
"He’s a strange tradition and the spirit of Pacific. He’s their mascot, their emblem, the love of their life."
— The Oregonian, November 1950
Boxer officially became Pacific’s mascot in 1968. That year, students voted in favor of replacing the original school mascot, Benny Badger, with Boxer. Many felt that Boxer was a better representation of the university.
Gone But Not Forgotten
The original Boxer statue went missing in 1969 after the last-ever Boxer Toss, a spirited tradition that began around 1900. The Boxer Toss was the traditional way in which one group of students passed on possession of the statue to another group. Groups battled for possession of the statue in good-natured scrimmages that sometimes resulted in bumps and bruises. The scrimmages began after the group in possession of the statue “flashed” or “tossed” out Boxer by displaying the mascot somewhere on campus for students to see. After a Boxer Toss, the statue was hidden for stretches of time, sometimes years. In 1962, the Blue Key Honor Fraternity published a history of Boxer (pdf) that detailed various Boxer Tosses and struggles for possession of the mascot.
As Boxer was passed around the student body during Tosses, pieces of the statue often ended up in different places. But the mascot was mended many times.
“His head and forelegs have parted company with his torso many times. His plume tail was amputated in a bout years ago and is being passed among the alumni. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, Boxer always gets back together again.”
— Pageant Magazine, 1950
In the 1980s, the statue was recast as Boxer II. A few flashes took place with that statue, but it too has since gone missing.
Boxer Spirit Endures
Over the years, a few pieces of the original statue have been recovered, often with the help of alumni. The tail, which went missing before the rest of the statue vanished in 1969, was returned home to Pacific by an alumnus in 2012. It is the largest piece recovered to date. An ear and hoof were also recovered.
Occasionally, rumors surface about the original statue’s current location. Perhaps with the help of alumni and students, the rest of Boxer will eventually come home to Pacific.
Although the original statue is still missing, Pacific’s mascot continues to inspire the university community to embrace its spirit.
In 2006, Pacific dedicated a large replica of Boxer. The 12-foot-tall sculpture was made by a local artist from recycled metal. From its perch in Vandervelden Court, Boxer keeps a watchful eye on Pacific’s campus.
Introducing Boxer III
In 2018, a group of alumni initiated an effort to recast Boxer once again. Working with the artist who created the Boxer II statue — and with significantly more historical data, including photos and pieces of the original statue — the university commissioned a new incarnation of the statue, which will be as close as possible to the original design. Boxer III was funded by the gifts of alumni and friends and debuts at Homecoming 2018. It is meant to be an art piece, kept under lock-and-key, to commemorate the long and stories history of Pacific's unique mascot.
Boxer is back. That is a central fact about which we can agree. Almost everything else in the tangled story about a mythical Chinese creature is a web of folklore, curious hiding places and campus bragging rights. Even the people best acquainted with the Boxer tradition get foggy about some of the details.
Boxer I and Boxer II have been absent from campus for years, but Boxer III was unveiled during 2018 Homecoming festivities.