A Vol’s Best Friend

For more than 60 years, Smokey has been running the sidelines at football games and bringing joy to Vols young and old. Find out more about the blueticks that have come before and the hound whose howl now echoes in the stands.


The UT Pep Club ran a contest in 1953 to select a mascot for the university and it was decided that the new mascot would be a hound dog. The first Smokey was chosen during halftime at the Mississippi State game on September 26, 1953, by applause from the crowd. Brooks’ Blue Smokey, owned by Rev. W. C. Brooks, was last in the line of dogs vying for the title. The crowd cheered, Smokey barked, they cheered some more, and he kept barking.

A movement began in the mid-1950s to replace Smokey with a Tennessee Walking Horse. The alumnus responsible for the movement said the horse would “lend more dignity and beauty to half-time festivities at Shields-Watkins Field.” The idea never took off, but Tennessee Walking Horses began making appearances at games until the field was covered in artificial turf, making it too rough for the horses to make turns.

It’s pretty safe to say that Smokey II had the most exciting adventures of all the dogs. In 1955, students from the University of Kentucky kidnapped him for eight days. They dressed him in a blue and white blanket with a large ‘K’ and paraded him around at a Kentucky pep rally. Smokey’s captors returned him just before kickoff. A week later, three Vanderbilt students tried the same heist at the Brooks house, but ended up taking an old hunting dog instead. Finally, during the 1957 Sugar Bowl, Smokey II tangled with the Baylor Bear and came away unscathed—even though the bear took a swat or two at him.

Smokey III served the longest of any of the dogs (1964–1977), attending ten bowl games.

In 1980, Smokey V was a mere pup when he took over as mascot, but he kept growing and growing. Rev. Brooks’s wife, Mildred, made a total of five orange and white jackets for the hound in just a single season.

When Smokey IX took up his duties, it was evident that he had a different personality than his immediate predecessor. For nine seasons, Smokey VIII would “stand at attention, pose for every picture, and he would run perfectly.” Smokey IX was said to be a lot more playful, licking and nudging fans.


Earl (brother of Mildred Brooks) and Martha Hudson, of Knoxville, took over as owners of Smokey from the Brooks family in 1994. The Hudsons’ son, Charles, began caring for Smokey IX in 2011 and currently owns and cares for Smokey X.

Since 1977, brothers from the agricultural fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho have been the sole candidates for Smokey’s handlers. Chosen handlers take care of Smokey while he’s on the job, and in return receive not only a small scholarship for books, but plenty of slobbery Smokey kisses.

Smokey X—Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The image may not be displayed or printed in any commercial media without permission from the photographer. ©2015 John Black Photography


BIRTHDAY: February 2012

PARENTS & SIBLINGS: Smokey was one of eight pups born to Li’L Lucy Lulu and Blue Diamond Pokey Joe.

BIRTHPLACE: Davis Branch Blueticks, Shelbyville, TN

BECOMING SMOKEY: The pup that became Smokey X was the largest of all the pups ever born at Davis Branch, according to kennel owner Wendy Davis. He weighed twenty-six pounds at two months old. She picked Smokey not only for his size but also for his looks and temperament. “He just seemed like the right one,” Davis says. “Like he knew he was supposed to do something special.”

ON THE JOB: Smokey X is one busy hound. Since he began his official duties in 2013, he has obligations for every football weekend. He makes athletics appearances and attends some philanthropic events. Smokey’s game days are full of festivities like the Vol Walk. He also occasionally makes appearances at other non-football sporting events.

THE LEGACY: Davis says she’s honored each time a would-be customer asks for a dog like Smokey. “He makes a connection for those people who may not have gone to college but love UT football and want to be a part of the university,” says Davis. “They can be a part of UT by having a part of Smokey.”

History Source: Smokey: The True Stories Behind the University of Tennessee’s Beloved
Mascot by Thomas J. Mattingly and Earl C. Hudson (UT Press, 2012)

Photos by John Black Photography


Smokey X—Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The image may not be displayed or printed in any commercial media without permission from the photographer. ©2015 John Black Photography

UT 225th anniversaryThis story is part of the University of Tennessee’s 225th anniversary celebration. Volunteers light the way for others across Tennessee and throughout the world.

Learn more about UT’s 225th anniversary

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Angie September 1, 2015 - 11:11 pm

Such a good boy! VFL…GBO!

Brenda Kerns September 26, 2023 - 7:44 pm

Thanks so much for this wonderful article. I know Earl Hudson for so many years. He always talked about Smokey. He was very proud of Smokey. Again thanks

Cindy Johnson September 3, 2015 - 10:30 am

Such a beautiful boy! We have many full-blooded Blueticks who need a home. http://www.coonhoundrescue.com/rescuedogs.html

Grace Copeland September 4, 2015 - 11:05 am

Cindy, thank you SO much for posting the link. My family has two rescue Blueticks and they are such wonderful dogs.

Michelle Chandler September 17, 2015 - 9:26 pm

Thank you for posting about your rescue! Adopt don’t shop!

Whitney Goodman September 4, 2015 - 5:55 pm

I would love to schedule a doggie pay date. I have a Bluetick named Knox. We are regulars at the Concord dog park in Knoxville.

Margaret O. Randall September 4, 2015 - 8:54 pm

Fall 2015 cover is the best ever. Pictures are great and suitable for framing.
Thank you!

lLynn September 4, 2015 - 8:56 pm

This South Carolina girl LOVES Smokey, Tennessee, and UT Vols!

Roger Richmond September 5, 2015 - 10:51 pm

Margaret Randall said it and I agree: Best cover ever; absolutely suitable for framing and you should market those pictures. As owner and companion of two bluetick hounds, kudos for such a beautiful face for Torch Bearer!

Amy September 9, 2015 - 12:20 pm

I would absolutely order a print of this to hang on my wall. Kudos to the photographer. Oh, and the subject too for being such a good doggie while his picture was taken.

Anita Holt September 12, 2015 - 4:19 pm

Hound dogs are beautiful, sweet, loving, and. hilarious. Our rescued red bone is an endless source of entertainment. I would also buy this print…so well done. Rescue a coonhound…it will enrich your life.

Jeremy September 12, 2015 - 5:15 pm

I have the best looking Bluetick in Tennessee, he is a great dog and has been used as Smokey in pictures and paintings. His grand daddy is the Michael Jordan of Blueticks… “Hornet”…. I am having puppies this spring. Feel free to reach out to me. Got a great painting of my dog as Smokey Treeing Lane Kiffin! There are prints ? Go Vols!

Davis July 5, 2020 - 8:36 pm

Which pictures & paintings?

Becky Muska September 16, 2015 - 8:12 am

I had the honor of petting Smokey in 1997 at the Liberty Bowl in Mphs. when Peyton Manning & the Vols beat Ole Miss. I don’t know which Smokey “number” he was, but he had a white heart-shaped mark on the top of his head.

mari authement September 16, 2015 - 2:34 pm

I graduated from UTK in 1994 and started sportsfanimals.com because I couldn’t locate a UT collar for my beloved cat, Coco. I would love to send Smokey X some complimentary Vol pet gear to sport at the games (despite how beautiful he is without any Orange on!!)


Vicki September 16, 2015 - 4:40 pm

Smokey is so handsome & a one of the best mascots in college football!!

suzy cook September 17, 2015 - 6:29 pm

I hope you sell these prints. What great pictures of our favorite Tennessee dog!!

Barbara Britton September 18, 2015 - 12:41 am

This is the BEST cover ever! Awesome!

Jeffery September 23, 2015 - 4:15 pm

I framed this issue I thought the photo of Smokey was so amazing. I would also love a print to frame for my brother.

Kay B. Spain September 27, 2021 - 8:48 pm

My son Allen, a graduate of UT in 1991 purchased a his Ole “Hickory” Spain from the same Kennel as Smokey. His Ole Hickory is a brother to Smokey, born the same month and year in the same Kennel in Shelbyville, TN. I have many wonderful pictures of Hickory and he visits my home often. I Love Hickory and his Breed! Sweet, Smart and Loving to All. He stays inside my home when my son and his children visit. He is wonderful pet and companion in every way! I have many, many wonderful pictures of Hickory taken in the last 9 years. We Spain’s LOVE UT FOOTBALL!


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