For over 27 years, this anachronistic giant has roamed the grounds of North London. The Arsenal faithful have held a special place in their hearts for Gunnersaurus, present at every home match and various events.
Gunnersaurus taught penalty shootouts to young children, participated in every league campaign, joined championship celebrations, and posed for team photos each season.
However, many questions have remained unanswered about this mysterious creature. How did the dinosaur come into existence? What was its life like at Arsenal? Why a dinosaur?
The Origins of Gunnersaurus
According to the club’s official story, Arsenal began the reconstruction of the North Bank at Highbury Stadium in the summer of 1993. Deep underground, workers stumbled upon what initially appeared to be a large rock. Or perhaps, they worried, an unexploded bomb from the war.
One can imagine their alarm as they carefully cleared the surrounding soil and discovered what they had actually found. It turned out to be an exceptionally large egg.
The egg felt warm to the touch, with some workers claiming it trembled slightly. They gingerly lifted it and placed it in a sheltered corner of the grounds, wrapping it in an Arsenal scarf.
It didn’t take long for the egg to hatch. Some workers recoiled from the egg and its mysterious inhabitant, while others were intrigued.
Finally, the egg cracked open, and Arsenal executives only stated that they were “shocked and surprised” by what they saw next. What emerged was a green-colored baby dinosaur, round in the middle, with a long and robust tail.
Standing at 7 feet tall, Arsenal dressed it in a full uniform, complete with soccer cleats. On August 20, 1993, they unveiled it to the public at Highbury before the match against Manchester City.
The Creation of an 11-Year-Ol
Of course, the above story is pure fantasy, even though it was posted on Arsenal’s official website. Gunnersaurus is actually the embodiment of an idea that came about during Arsenal’s mascot design contest.
At the time, the Junior Gunners held a mascot contest for Arsenal during the 1993/1994 season. As a result, the committee selected the creation of Peter Lovell, who was just 11 years old at the time, as the winner. Peter named his mascot “Gunnersaurus Rex,” which later became the official name of the mascot.
The basic idea remained the same: a dinosaur wearing a cap and collar. The difference in the newer version was that Gunnersaurus wore shoes.
Peter Lovell, who was passionate about two things in life, Arsenal – the club that became his idol due to the influence of his grandparents – and dinosaurs, especially the T-Rex species.
Lovell was captivated by these ancient creatures due to the release of the legendary film, Jurassic Park, in that same year.
Coincidentally, in the same year, Arsenal held a contest to design the club’s mascot, specifically for middle school students.
“The idea came from combining two things I love dearly, Arsenal and dinosaurs,” said Lovell, who is now 33 years old and works as the Head of Talent Acquisition at a London-based gaming company.
While Arsenal’s logo takes the form of a cannon, the mascot’s role is to be a friendly face for fans, especially children. Therefore, the club wisely chose not to use a war-themed element as the mascot.
The competition took place after the tremendous success of the film “Jurassic Park,” which inspired an 11-year-old named Peter Lovell to create “Gunnersaurus Rex,” eventually making him the winner.
He even explained how the costume should be worn, specifying that the “belly and tail must have equal weight so that ‘Gunnersaurus’ doesn’t topple over.”
Most of the time, the unique Gunnersaurus outfit was worn by a single individual, whose identity was often kept secret by the club. According to some sources, he was an Arsenal employee who worked on a daily basis, but on matchdays, he switched to wearing the dinosaur costume.
Gunnersaurus was depicted as a dinosaur wearing an Arsenal jersey, but during pre-season games, Gunnersaurus would appear naked and free.
The jersey he wore was too large and wasn’t part of a sponsorship agreement. Thus, the jersey worn by Gunnersaurus was specially designed with a larger size and extra hole for the tail.
The costume was usually kept in the mascot’s dressing room, located outside the corridor near the stadium’s press office. However, before the Coronavirus pandemic, the original Gunnersaurus took the costume home. This led to new content on its social media, showcasing the lively home life of Gunnersaurus.
As the Arsenal football team expanded, scheduling conflicts arose between the men’s and women’s teams. This required Gunnersaurus to be present in two places simultaneously, leading to the creation of an additional Gunnersaurus.
At certain moments, there were even three Gunnersaurus mascots operating in different areas of Emirates Stadium. This situation was somewhat disappointing for the ‘original’ Gunnersaurus.
Life as a mascot isn’t all about handshakes and hugs with fans. As a newcomer, the person wearing the costume revealed that there was a musty and overpowering smell inside. Moreover, jests from colleagues were common while wearing it.
When Arsenal conducted a tour and local youths tried on the costume, they praised how the original Gunnersaurus could even breakdance and juggle.
When the mascot of Southend, Sammy the Shrimp, passed away, he expressed a wish to have mascots at his funeral. Gunnersaurus was one of several attendees, along with Moonchester from Manchester City, Lenny the Bradford City Gent, and others.
They carried the coffin into the crematorium and stood silently during the service. Unfortunately, when the pastor asked the congregation to bow their heads in a moment of reflection, Gunnersaurus’s long neck almost caused some mourners to stumble.
“He’s not just the coolest mascot in the Premier League, he’s the strongest, the most fun, and in my opinion, the most adored. We have this incredible and much-loved icon. I almost cried when I saw him hugging Cesc Fabregas after his last game at the Emirates,” said the creator of Gunnersaurus, Peter Lovell, who is now 38 years old.