From Grizzly to Polar: The Story Behind Our Mascot Colossus

By Helena Keeble

During your time at Royal Holloway, it’s hard to avoid our team mascot, Colossus – you’ll likely find him wandering around campus taking selfies and mingling with the crowds. However, our friendly white bear wasn’t always this way. Back in the 1950s Royal Holloway was desperate to join the trend of other University of London Colleges by attaining a mascot. So, one day in February 1956, a Royal Holloway student purchased a large stuffed grizzly bear called Colossus and transported him from London to our very own Egham. Colossus immediately became a prize to the campus and an item of envy to other local colleges. Due to this, poor old Colossus became subject to multiple thefts, and in one case a turn in a fumigation chamber in order to de-louse his fur. Like our Colossus today, the grizzly liked to travel around campus, often attending lectures and special events, or visiting students in their halls. The Queen Mother was even given the honour of meeting Colossus in 1970, which called for him to have a re-vamp including a shiny new set of teeth.

Colossus D’Bear and the Queen Mother in 1970

To the sadness of every student, Colossus’s time at Royal Holloway reached an abrupt end in 1991 when he was kidnapped and held for ransom by Imperial College. Unfortunately, the Students’ Union refused to pay for his safe return, so our lovely bear remained at Imperial until his tragic end in 1993, when his ashy remains were discovered, having been burnt to a smoulder by an animal rights protestor. As shown in the photo, his skull and metal frame was all that remained.

So, as a tribute to our long lost friend, we remember him in name through our snowy polar bear. From grizzly to polar, it is unclear why his species transformed over the years but todays bear has come to mean as much to Royal Holloway as our original Grizzly in the late 1900s. So, next time you see Colossus on campus, remember this story and give him a smile so that we can protect him from the same fate.

Featured image courtesy of RHUL SU.

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