USC Trojan horse, Traveler, sparks campus outcry

Photo: USC mascot Traveler has become a controversial figure at USC following the events at Charlottesville, Virginia

There is little controversy regarding USC football’s #4 preseason ranking by the Associated Press. But that cannot be said of the university’s Trojan horse, Traveler, a mascot that proudly prowls the sidelines for the Southern California Trojan football team.

According to the Los Angeles Times, following the events of Charlottesville, there have been efforts to remove the equine Trojan Mascot. The horse, named Traveler, has a similar name to General Robert E. Lee’s white horse named Traveller – spelled with an additional “L”. The horse was purchased in 1958 and already had the name ‘Traveler’ when given to the University by the Saukko family. Traveler has been a game day regular since that time. 

Few fans today know the history of ‘Traveller’ or ‘Traveler’ in America’s past and, instead, connect the white horse with the mascot Trojan warrior. Like many of the current controversies inspired by Charlottesville, the intent is relatively unimportant while symbolism carries the day.

“The problem is this: maybe three weeks ago it was fine,” Pat Saukko DeBernardi said. “So now the flavor of the day is . . . we all have to be in hysteria. . . . It’s more of a political issue. The horse isn’t political and neither am I.”

The article goes on to state:

USC’s mascot horse is a symbol of ancient Troy. Its rider, with costume and sword, is a symbol of a Trojan warrior,” the final paragraph said. “The name Traveler, spelled with one ‘l,’ is a common name among horses. . . . USC’s Traveler is and has always been a proud symbol of Troy. There is no truth to any other claims or rumors about its name.”

But the name isn’t that common. According to Equibase, a leading source of horse racing statistics, there have been only three registered thoroughbreds named Traveler in the U.S. since 1945. Only two quarter horses have been registered with the name. Another site, which tracks pet names, doesn’t rank Traveler in the top 100 most popular names for horses.

The earliest mention of a connection between Lee and USC’s Traveler appears to have come in Saukko’s four-paragraph obituary in The Times.

“Saukko’s first horse was half Arabian, half Tennessee walker and was named Traveler I, after the horse of Civil War general Robert E. Lee,” the story said.

Expect a pitched battle to continue both on and off the field for the USC Trojans this season.