Testudo: Lucky and Legendary

By Iman Naima Smith

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He sits upon his throne, his head raised in unbroken vigilance, awaiting his good luck rub to the nose from passing admirers.

It was 1932 when University of Maryland football coach H. Curley Byrd recommended Testudo for the school’s mascot, according to “All About Testudo” an article from UMD’s website that pays homage to the mascot. Before Testudo’s debut, UMD teams were called the Old Liners. May 23, 1933 marked Testudo’s debut to the university.

But how did Testudo get his name? Students have heard several stories, but the mystery remains. One popular interpretation is that the scientific classification for turtle is “testudines,” which lends itself to the name Testudo.

Another interesting possibility is the word “testudo” is defined as “a cover of overlapping shields or a shed wheeled up to a wall used by the ancient Romans to protect an attacking force,” according to Merriam-Webster.

It’s not just his name that is sheathed in mystery.

Testudo’s first home was in front of Ritchie Coliseum, but due to this location being susceptible to his defacement and kidnapping, he was relocated to his current post in front of McKeldin Library since the 1960s.

This specific Testudo, along with his five bronze replicas around campus, has become a place of worship and a symbol of luck to the UMD student population. Whether we’re heading to an exam or we simply desire a shred of good luck, it is a UMD tradition to rub his nose; or, in the case of finals week, decorate him and leave offerings.

But do students truly believe in Testudo’s mystical power of luck?

Sophomore letters and sciences major Denise McPhilmy is a devout believer in the power Testudo has over her grades. “I got A’s on all my finals last semester,” said McPhilmy.

But although senior broadcast journalism major JD Delesa believes in the tradition, he does not feel that luck plays a part. “I just think that hard work is really what gets you the grades you want,” he said.

Chandini Narang, a sophomore biology and English major, agrees. “I know that I can achieve using my brain and not from some reassurance that I get from a statue.”

Sixty-four percent of students on campus voted in favor of Testudo’s powers, according to a Survey Monkey poll.

Regardless of those who believe otherwise, this 80-year-old turtle’s good luck rub tradition continues to thrive on as a legacy that UMD proudly upholds.


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