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Minnesota State Mammal

Minnesota is one of the very few states that don’t have a state mammal. The closest may be an early nickname, Gopher State.

The animal behind the nickname is actually the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Before Minnesota became a state, there was reportedly a debate over the nicknames Beaver State and Gopher State. The “gopher” was derided as a pest. On the other hand, it is much more common in drier areas. Besides, Oregon is The Beaver State.

The “gopher” owed its popularity in part to an 1857 political cartoon.

Minnesota NicknameThis is a portion of the original cartoon, edited for clarity.

Minnesotans have campaigned for a state animal on several occasions. The wolf has been proposed for adoption at least six times. However, efforts to adopt the wolf always run into opposition from white-tailed deer fans.

Other candidates have included the thirteen-lined ground squirrel (“gopher”) and black bear. (A beaver the size of a black bear was once promoted for adoption as the state fossil.)

Minnesota State Mammal

If I lived in Minnesota, I would vote for the wolf over the deer and bear. The black bear already represents four states, while the white-tailed deer represents a dozen. No state is represented by the wolf, not even Alaska.

Another possibility is to adopt two mammals, designating the wolf the official predator. Or Minnesotans could even adopt three official mammals, adding the ground squirrel as the official historic mammal. On the other hand, it might be nice to remain one of the few states with no official mammal at all. The last thing we need is yet another state represented by the whitetail.

Yet another mammal has been proposed for adoption as a symbol of Minnesota, a horse. In fact, some Minnesotans asked legislators to adopt a famous horse named Dan Patch.

Dan Patch was a giant in the sport of harness racing. He was so fast that some racehorse owners refused to compete against him. Dan Patch was sometimes forced to race against the “unbeatable phantom horse,” the watch.

State mammalRight: A statue of Dan Patch unveiled at Savage Public Library in 2018. (License)

Dan Patch hasn’t been adopted as a symbol, but he has still received plenty of honors. A new railroad serving southern Minnesota even became known as the Dan Patch Line. The city of Savage was named for Dan Patch’s owner, Marion Savage, in 1904.

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