The Tennessee Volunteers celebrated the 61-year anniversary of Smokey as its official mascot today. The Bluetick Coonhound was selected as the official school mascot by a student poll and debuted on Sept. 26, 1956 in a home game against Mississippi State.

The original mascot was Blue Smokey, who represented the team from 1953-54. There have been nine generations of Smokey since, including the current Smokey X, who debuted in 2013. The most successful of the live dogs was Smokey VIII, who saw a record of 91-22, two SEC titles and one National Championship from 1995-2003.

The Pep Club held a contest in 1953 to select a Coonhound, a native breed of the state, as the mascot to represent the school. The late Rev. Bill Brooks entered his prize-winning dog, “Brooks’ Blue Smokey,” in the contest.

At halftime of the Mississippi State game, the dogs were lined up on the old cheerleaders’ ramp at Shields-Watkins Field. Each dog was introduced and the student body cheered their favorite, with “Blue Smokey”  showcased last and receiving the loudest ovation. Rev. Brooks supplied UT with with several canines until his death in 1986 when his wife, Mildred, took over as caretaker.

The role was passed on to her brother and sister-in-law, Earl and Martha Hudson of Knoxville, who took responsibility for Smokey VII. Following his wife’s passing in 1997, Hudson continued to provide the University of Tennessee with hounds from Smokey VIII to the present Smokey X.

In 2012, the University of Tennessee Press published a book about Smokey’s history, written by Hudson and Tennessee sports historian Tom Mattingly.