The pets of Oxford colleges do so much for their stressed students. A friendly tail wag, a lively game of fetch between tutes or even an unexpected rodent present at your accommodation door can bring joy or at least a distraction to our days. It’s time the best and the brightest among these loyal animals get the recognition they deserve. So, in the great Oxford tradition of awards and rankings, Cherwell has created this college pet show to decide once and for all which furry friends and scaly supporters are the most distinguished.
First up is the oldest. As with colleges, a few pets can claim ancient status. The controversy does not stop there though! Toby from Trinity college, officially the oldest at about 100 years old, comes from a college accused of tortoise fraud and theft. In 2004, Balliol’s tortoise, Rosa Luxemburg, disappeared one day, and rumour has it Trinity is to blame! Not only is Toby the Oldest Pet, he and his partner in crime Plum (a spritely 90 year old tortoise) also claim the title of No.1 Reptile Rascals- beware!
The Trinity-Balliol controversy is not the sole pet-related college feud. As those who were at Oxford last year will remember, Walter from Exeter and Simpkin IV from Hertford began invading eachothers’ colleges. Prompting Oxfess outrage and a library ban, this event , dubbed ‘the Battle for Radcliffe Square’ has put these two archenemies in the (military) history books. So as not to upset either ferocious feline, Cherwell has jointly awarded them.
Fortunately, some Oxonian animals inspire emotions other than anger and over zealous college pride. Some are inspiring, full stop. None more so than St Hilda’s cat, Teabag. She turned up at Hilda’s one cold, rainy night, so small and bedraggled that she looked like a used teabag. After the diligent care of several porters, she began to thrive and has grown into a fine college cat. Her presence and name reminds students and staff that in a loving community they can overcome any difficulty.
Other college pets influence the humans surrounding them in different, perhaps more superficial ways. This is the case of our Biggest Influencer, Tortilla. Star of the University insta and boasting 715 followers on his own insta, the Lincoln College tortoise is truly the Kim Kardashian of college pets. Follow him @tortilla_la_tortuga!
The key to celebrity is a catchy name. Unfortunately the next pet’s name is neither catchy, mnor even accurate to its species. Foxe/Fox from Corpus is not a quick, red mammal, but instead a slow, green reptile. Although the name is likely an allusion to the famous theological author John Foxe or college founder Robert Fox, the name still leads to some confusion.
Professor Biscuit is rather aptly named, as this rotund cat from St Hughs has been named the Hungriest Pet. Known for eating rats, tuna, Dreamies and a whole host of other treats, Biscuit’s ravenous appetite even prompted the college disciplinary team to send out a warning email to students last Michaelmas.
Oxford Uni Mascot
Like his owner, Vice Chancellor Professor Irene Tracey, Geoffrey Biscuit, received a promotion this year. Rising from Merton college pet to the University office, this 3 year-old golden retriever is a young and lively representative of the ancient university. It should be noted that this category was nearly won by an LMH cat named Benny D after “benedictus benedicat”. Not only does his name allude to the Oxford tradition of formal hall graces, but he is also always sporting subfusc!
Now, we come to one of our most contentious categories. The cutest pet was voted online by hundreds of Oxford students. Although an honrouble mention goes to Mansfield cat Ziggy and his adorable missing teeth, in the end the Johns triplet cats won out. At under a year old, Laud, Baylie and Case are true kittens, with the floof and flair to match.
Best in Show
Finally, the premier award of the show. Although many pets are cute, talented, charismatic and popular, only one can truly be the Best in Show. The only pet to submit a CV (and what a stacked one!) and the winner of a vast majority on our online poll, Aristurtle from Peters stands head and shoulders above the rest, even though she is just a small tortoise. She can jump “really high” for an animal of such short limbs, placed second in the college tortoise race last year as a relative rookie of only thirteen years and as a voracious appetite for lettuce. Other purported accomplishments include an upcoming summer analyst internship at Goldman Sachs, an intimate rendez-vous with Timothée Chalamet and winning the BBC’s ‘500 words’ short story competition.