“So, what’s with the pig, man?” Have you ever wondered why Harley Davidson (HD) has a pig for their mascot? I bet they hear that a lot. I mean, it’s not really the coolest animal in the ol’ food chain. It’s definitely not the first thing that pops into my head when thinking of the notorious HD motorcycle. Why not a wolf? Or a dragon? Or a jacked-up leprechaun with laser beams shooting out of his eyeballs? Anything but a pig–but a pig it is. This is the story of little Johnny, the piglet that changed the face of the most renowned and successful motorcycle company in history.
The term “Hog,” as it refers to motorcycles, goes all the way back to the beginning of the last century. In the 1910’s and 1920’s, HD was raging through the laps making a name for themselves on the track. Racing bikes was where it was at, and the HD team was at the forefront with their total domination of the sport, which earned them the nickname of the “Wrecking Crew.”
One of the old timers blazing the trails back in the 20’s was Lawrence Ray Weishaar, a class A racing champion and member of HD’s Wrecking Crew. After one particular night of spanking the pants off the competition, Weishaar decided to take a victory lap around the track with his little piglet, named Johnny, perched up on his gas tank. From there, Johnny’s victory lap became a tradition for the Wrecking Crew, and the little pig quickly became their mascot. The media unofficially dubbed the team the “Harley Hogs” with a bit of a double meaning. Of course, there was Johnny, but it may have also had to do with the fact that the team was “hogging” all of the wins.
Fast forward about sixty years or so to 1983 and you will see HD use the H.O.G. acronym for the first time with the creation of the riding association known as the Harley Owners Group. H.O.G. is pretty much what it sounds like, a group for people that own Harley’s. Doesn’t get more self-explanatory than that, does it? H.O.G. members are grouped together, similar to other clubs in that they have chapters and host events. They participate heavily in charity work and pretty much every Harley dealership is home to a chapter. One of the benefits of being a member is your quarterly H.O.G. magazine, which is filled with articles, photos, and reader submissions.
The little pig that built his house out of steel is everywhere. The brand is everywhere and here to stay. It has become firmly embedded into American culture like few others have even come close to being able to match. And what a cool story. I love how the insignificance of one victory lap for a couple of chuckles with a pet pig has resonated throughout motorcycle history and left such a lasting impression and a set of traditions worthy of passing down to the next generation of riders.