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UNC Sheep Mascot Killed On Farm

February 26, 1996 GMT

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) _ The weekend killing and mutilation of a sheep probably was not related to its use as a sports mascot at the University of North Carolina, the animal’s owner said.

After serving only a year as the mascot, Rameses the ram was found dead Sunday morning.

The animal’s throat had been cut, it had been gutted and its left front quarter had been cut off, according to sheriff’s officials.

Owner Rob Hogan told authorities he found the ram dead when he went to feed it Sunday morning.

``I’m convinced it was not sports-related and I think that’s important to point out,″ Hogan said.

Hogan said he could not speculate on why someone would kill the mascot, saying only, ``there’s some unanswered questions.″

Officials also said they do not believe that a development controversy involving the Hogan family was a motive in the animal’s killing.

The Hogan family has been at the center of a dispute in Orange County since 1987, when local governments drew up growth plans that placed the family’s 450-acre farm smack in the middle.

The family eventually sold the land, paving the way for developers to create an expansion area. That decision angered some county residents who complain that development will ruin their quiet, simple way of life.

The carcass of the 2-year-old ram was sent to the North Carolina State University Veterinary School for an necropsy that could uncover more clues, including whether the animal was shot before it was butchered, said Lt. Tommy Hamilin of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Officials said they had no apparent motive or suspect, although the animal’s chain had been cut and part of it was missing.

``We don’t know anything yet, but we have some suspicions,″ Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass told The Herald-Sun of Durham.

North Carolina mascots have been targets of pranksters ever since cheerleader Vic Huggins introduced the animal more than 70 years ago. In the past, students at rival schools kidnapped them before big games, but the animals have always been returned safely, said Hogan’s cousin, Chris Hogan.

``This is very distressing to all of us,″ North Carolina athletic director John Swofford said. ``Ramses has been a symbol of all our athletic teams, particularly football, for over 70 years. He has always been a favorite of the little kids at our football games. ... Something like this just seems so senseless.″

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Chancellor Michael Hooker said he was deeply saddened to learn about the ram’s death.

``The university deplores the horrible manner in which this incident occurred. We also extend our condolences and sincere appreciation to the Hogan family, which has so thoughtfully nurtured the Tar Heel tradition of Rameses over the years,″ Hooker said.