Hennes the goat is a German football institution. A part of the Cologne family since 1950, featuring on the club crest and giving the Billy Goats their nickname, he was the first living mascot in the Bundesliga and currently one of only two alongside Eintracht Frankfurt’s eagle Attila.
Hennes first came to Cologne over 70 years ago – a good decade before the Bundesliga was even created – and the current Hennes is the ninth to be associated with the club. But how did a billy goat even come to be the mascot and face of a football team?
On 13 February 1950, two years after the club now known as 1. FC Köln was formed, circus director Carola Williams presented Cologne with a young goat during carnival, saying the team lacked a lucky charm. The name Hennes was then taken from the player-coach at the time, Hennes Weisweiler.
Weisweiler led the Billy Goats to the 1977/78 Bundesliga title and back-to-back DFB Cup triumphs in 1977 and 1978. He’d also guided Cologne’s arch-rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach to three Bundesliga crowns earlier in the 1970s, as well as the DFB Cup and UEFA Cup. The rumours go that Hennes the goat urinated on his namesake at the handover in 1950. Given the amount of gold liquid the locals had consumed at Carnival, that story is heavily disputed and in fact now believed to be made up.
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The original Hennes would attend every home game from the start and became something of an identification figure for the club. It didn’t take long for the team to pick up the nickname of Billy Goats (Geißböcke in German) and the famous goat was soon even included in the club badge, where he still stands proudly over the city’s famous cathedral.
When Hennes I died in 1966 and Weisweiler was in charge at a rival team, the next goat was named Oscar and Heinzchen, but the name Hennes soon returned for good, adding numbers at the end like Cologne does with its Carnival princes.
There are countless amusing stories involving Hennes in Cologne. Hennes IV, for example, rode in the parade as Effzeh celebrated their first and only domestic double – under Weisweiler – in 1977/78.
On Matchday 3 of the 2023/24 season, Hennes IX – the incumbent boss at the RheinEnergieStadion – tried to make a break for it and dragged his handler across the pitch while the players were warming up. The club’s 100-year celebrations of their home in Müngersdorf apparently got the goat a little too excited.
There was a similarly iconic moment in 2015 when Cologne striker Anthony Ujah tried celebrating a goal with Hennes VIII by grabbing his horns and riding him. Ujah later apologised for the exuberant celebration. Notably, the Nigerian was sold that summer. Nobody messes with Hennes.
And when the team was struggling with injuries in December 2017, Cologne tried to register Hennes VIII to be eligible to play. You’ve heard players referred to as donkeys before, but a goat would’ve been something new.
Hennes is an icon of even Cologne the city. He features in advertising and little stuffed Hennes toys are often one of the first toys children in the area will own. When Hennes isn’t at the stadium, he’s enjoying life in his plush club-branded abode at the Kölner Zoo alongside other goats. You can also watch him via a webcam. Germany’s most famous goat, Hennes VII at the time, once even starred as a murder victim in the TV crime drama ‘SK Kölsch’.
When Hennes VIII was retired due to age ahead of the 2019/20 season after 11 years in office, the club’s board of directors – yes, the decision is made at the very top – selected a successor. The job isn’t passed from father to son, nor have any of the goats been related or specifically bred to be the mascot. Hennes IX took over in August 2019 and is a breed of German Improve Fawn, looking more like the original Hennes of the 1950s.
Hennes holds cult status especially in Cologne but now also across German football. Hennes has made animal Bundesliga history.
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