Ralphie IV was donated to the university by media and sports entrepreneur Ted Turner.
Ralphie IV was born in April 1997 on the Flying D Ranch in Gallatin Gateway, Montana, which is a part of Turner Ranches, the largest ranch operation in the United States. Named “Rowdy” by ranch hands, she was separated from her mother when she was about a month old and was literally found in the jaws of a coyote with bite marks around her neck. She survived the attack and was bottle-fed by the hands for four months. She was released back to the herd but wouldn’t bond with them, so the ranch hands took her back in and fed her grasses and grain. It was then that she was donated to CU as a yearling early in the spring of 1998. ohn Parker, who trained and housed both Ralphie II and III, brought her back to Colorado from Montana and supervised all of her early training.
Parker retired as Ralphie’s caretaker in May 2000. Long-time CU supporters Dale and Lynn Johnson housed Ralphie for the following year, with Parker’s assistant, Ted Davis, assuming the program duties for the 2000 season.
In the summer of 2001, two former Ralphie Handlers and CU graduates, Ben Frei and Kevin Priola, took over the program. Together they coordinate the selection and managing of up to 12 student handlers as well as all aspects of training.
Ralphie IV, full grown and mature, weighs in at about 1,300 pounds, over three times her weight when she made her debut against Colorado State at Mile High Stadium in Denver on Sept. 5, 1998, and can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour.
Ralphie IV ran for 10 full seasons and made her final trot against Colorado State on Aug. 31, 2008, before retiring to her home in nearby Henderson. She continues to make occasional public appearances.