12 Photos That Show the Evolution of Columbia's Lion Mascot Over the Years

In honor of the Columbia Lion's 112th birthday on April 5, we're compiling our favorite mascot snapshots from over the decades. 

Kelly Moffitt & Jennifer Pellerito
March 31, 2022

Name another mascot as regal, majestic, fierce, and friendly as the Columbia Lion. We'll wait.

In honor of Roar-EE's 112th birthday on April 5, we've compiled 12 of our favorite snapshots from over the course of this lion's long tenure. Columbia Magazine tells the best story of how the lion came to be Columbia's mascot, but we'll summarize: In 1910, the idea of adopting an official mascot was put forth. Future lawyer George Brokaw Compton (CC'1909) argued that Yale had its Bull Dog, Brown its Bear, Princeton its Tiger. The Army had its Mule and the Navy had its Goat. Columbia, Compton argued, should be at the very top.

“We have the King’s Crown,” he is quoted as saying. “Let us have the lion.”

And so, on April 5, 1910, the motion to adopt the lion as the official mascot was proposed and "Leo Columbiae" was born. Today, we know the Columbia Lion affectionately as Roar-EE (read on to learn why!). 

One fun fact before we get to that, though: In 1917, studio publicist Howard Dietz (CC'1917) designed the “Leo the Lion” logo for Samuel Goldwyn’s Goldwyn Picture Corporation. He based it on the Columbia College Lions athletic team. When Goldwyn Pictures merged with Metro Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Pictures, the newly formed MGM retained the logo, perhaps the most famous studio logo in the world. 

1910s | Wait, That's Not a Lion...

A goat with a sign that reads "Columbia's Goat."

Did you know? In 1910, Columbia held a vote to determine what the official school mascot would be. Enter: "Matilda the Harlem Goat." Matilda was owned by Patrick Riley, who had a farm at 120th St. and Amsterdam Ave. and frequently lent Matilda to Columbia students for various pranks (yikes!). In the 1910 vote, many tried to push through the goat as Columbia's mascot, but the lion won and was officially named "Leo Columbiae." Matilda's story did not end there, though. In 1914, Matilda the Goat died and Columbia students in academic regalia held a funeral procession for her while they sang an original funeral dirge, "A Harlem Goat."

1921 | A Fearsome Lion, "Leo Columbiae"

A fearsome Lion mascot in 1921 at a Columbia football game.

The original lion mascot was pretty...fearsome, if we do say so ourselves. Here, the lion is pictured on October 15, 1921 as the Columbia University football team took on NYU at South Field. Columbia won 19-0. We have to believe some of that had to do with the fear struck into the hearts of the opposing team at seeing our dear lion take the field. 

1940s | The Friendly and the Fierce

Coolumbia's Lion mascot greets a boy.
A photo of the Columbia Lion in the 1940s fighting a bear mascot.

The Columbia lion is a lover and a fighter: though we don't know the exact date of these photos, that much can be observed as the lion greets a young fan and brawls with an unnamed bear mascot (not to be confused with Barnard College's mascot, Millie the Dancing Bear). 

1952 | Take That, Princeton!

The Columbia Lion chases the Princeton tiger up a football goal post.

The Columbia Lion was giving "come down here and say it to my face!" vibes when it chased the Princeton Tiger to the top of the football goal posts after a game held at Baker Field in 1952. 

1960 | Cotton Candy King

A lion mascot shares cotton candy with a boy.

The Columbia Lion has a sweet tooth! A costumed Bob Berne (CC'60) shares his cotton candy with a boy at the 1960 homecoming game at Baker Field. 

1982 | Who Has More Spirit?

The Columbia Lion mascot talks with a cheerleader

The Columbia Lion mascot converses on Baker Field with a Columbia cheerleader, in the 80s.

2003 | With the Band

Columbia Lion poses with the Columbia band in black and white.

A new version of the Columbia Lion pays a visit to the CU Band in the bleachers at a Columbia Basketball game.

2005 | A New Era: Roar-EE

Roar-EE the lion at a Columbia Football game in 2005.

The most recent makeover of Columbia's Lion mascot can be traced back to 2005, when Roar-EE made his debut at the homecoming game. His new name was selected in a contest (sensing a theme here) and Roar-EE outpaced alternative suggestions, such as Hamilton, Hudson, K.C., and J.J. Roar-EE remains the official name of our mascot to this day. 

2010s | Icons Only

Roar-EE in a sweater poses next to Alma Mater

Have you ever seen two more iconic beings than Roar-EE and Alma Mater? They're giving us festive Columbia energy and a case of serious sweatshirt envy.

2020 | Roar-EE on the Run

A lion mascot stands in front of a President Bollinger Fun Run sign.

It is a known fact that Roar-EE is a world-class athlete, and as a runner, this lion is sublime. Roar-EE came out to cheer runners at President Bollinger's 2020 Fun Run. 

2020 | With Us Through It All

Roar-EE in a Columbia mask in Columbia Libraries

When the pandemic hit, Roar-EE was right there with us, encouraging everyone to wear masks and use hand sanitizer. Happily, with Columbia Athletics back in full swing as of Fall 2021, Roar-EE has gone back to doing what our favorite lion does best: cheering on our teams and meeting Columbians young and old. 

What will Roar-EE do next? We're not quite sure, but we know it is going to continue to fill us with joy and the fighting spirit. We do know one thing for certain, though: The Columbia Lion will be with us for at least another 112 years, and then some. Roar, Lion, Roar!

Make sure you follow @columbiaroaree on Instagram to keep up with Roar-EE's latest adventures.