Case of mistaken Bill: West Point cadets hit snafu attempting to snatch Navy mascot

·3 min read

The retired goat with only one horn is way too old for this, thank you very much. 

West Point cadets misidentified their wanted Naval Academy goat while chasing down a trip in a paddock at a private farm near Annapolis, Maryland, ahead of the Army-Navy football game next month. The raid was part of the pre-game shenanigans and pranks — called "spirit missions" — that include attempts on each other's mascot. 

Mistaken Bill in prank gone wrong

The Navy Midshipmen mascot, Bill The Goat XXXVII.
The Navy Midshipmen mascot, Bill The Goat XXXVII, was still snoozing comfortably in his paddock after an attempted prank by the Army went wrong. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

U.S. Military Academy cadets made the four-hour trip from New York to Annapolis to nab the Navy mascot Bill No. 37, per the New York Times. Bill No. 37 is from a long line of mascots named Bill, each given their own numbered surname of sorts, and some of whom apparently spend their time together at this particular farm. 

The group of cadets had tried to sneak into the paddock, but it quickly turned noisy and spooked the goats. And the thing about having a long line of look-alike Bills is they, well, look alike. Instead of seizing No. 37, a young angora with curly white wool, the group took No. 34, per the Times.

No. 34 is a 14-year-old retiree with only one horn and an arthritis diagnosis. No one noticed the mistake until the cadets made it back home, per a joint statement by the Army and Navy to the Times. 

Bill No. 34 was returned safely on Monday and deemed in good health by a veterinarian. The successful seize resulted in a muted celebration given the mistaken identity, per the Times. 

Academy leaders 'disappointed' by broken trust

The superintendents of the academies were similarly displeased. 

“The U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy are disappointed by the trust that was broken recently between our brothers and sisters in arms. These actions do not reflect either academy’s core values of dignity and respect,” superintendents Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams and Vice Adm. Sean Buck said in a statement on Monday night. 

Swiping another military academy's mascot is a decades-long tradition viewed as a prank, but academy leaders don't like how it looks in public. There's also a chance the mascot is hurt in the process, even if by accident. The prank was largely forbidden by a formal agreement signed in 1992, though there have been incidents since then. 

The most notable was in 2018 when West Point cadets took the Air Force Academy's falcon mascot, Aurora, and the animal beat her wings bloody trying to escape the dog crate she was stashed inside. 

Army has taken a Bill mascot at least 10 times over the past 70 years, per the Times. 

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