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The Story of Long Boi: From Campus Celebrity to Viral Icon

Long live Long Boi, you will be missed!

An Indian runner duck standing by a lake
Credit: Lioneska / Shutterstock

When animals go viral, either as memes or just because they’re cute, it’s usually familiar house pets like dogs and cats.

However, the creature who has caught the internet’s attention recently is somewhat unconventional.

Long Boi was a duck with 61.2k followers on Instagram. He was also the unofficial mascot of the University of York. Long Boi has played many roles; he was an unassuming duck who became a campus celebrity at York University, then a viral icon with a cult following, a featured guest on several big-name TV and radio shows, and, sadly, a greatly missed sight around campus after his (suspected) death.

Let’s get into the Long Boi lore!

The beginnings of Long Boi

Long Boi’s origin story is very mysterious. It is speculated that he was someone’s pet who escaped or was abandoned at some point. Long Boi is an Indian runner duck crossed with a mallard, meaning he stood at an impressive 70cm tall. Indian runner ducks are not native to the UK and only exist there as pets. People have estimated that Long Boi made the University of York campus his new home in around 2019. Students and staff quickly noticed the new duck who was towering over the usual crowd of native mallard ducks.

Long Boi earns his name (and an Instagram account)

Long Boi was popular amongst students and staff, often being fed and photographed by them. While it can’t be confirmed who first christened him as ‘Long Boi,’ he certainly became more widely known by this when York graduate Zoe Duffin set up an Instagram account dedicated to him (@longboiyork). She started posting pictures of Long Boi, which quickly grew his popularity on campus. As a result of his new influencer status, Long Boi became somewhat of a mascot for the university.

A Long Boi society was established, and he even has his own merch! Several York students went so far as to get tattoos of Long Boi. One such student was  Tom Howes, who got a Long Boi tattoo while in Portugal on a trip with the Uni’s Volleyball Club. He told The York Tab:

“I wanted to get something that encapsulates York and would remind me of my time at uni. So what better than Long Boi himself?”

Aside from touching the hearts of York students, Long Boi’s fame soon expanded beyond campus and his Instagram page.

The world’s longest boi?

 Long Boi’s following and celebrity status peaked when he became the subject of a Reddit Photoshop battle. A Redditor edited a picture of Long Boi to make him appear taller than he really is. This image was reposted on r/interestingasfuck with a caption claiming that  Long Boi was “the tallest mallard duck to have ever lived… over 1m tall”.

The tallest mallard duck to have ever lived (since records began) known as ‘Long Boi’ he lives on the campus of the University of York, England. He stands just over 1m tall (3.5ft).
by u/Grey_Machii in interestingasfuck

This is obviously incorrect, as Zoe has stated that he is around 70cm tall on the Long Boi Instagram account. Much like the photoshopped Borzoi ‘long’ dogs who became meme material, the same happened to Long Boi after he was posted on Reddit. A wealth of Long Boi memes began to circulate on social media. However, many members didn’t actually know who Long Boi was or where he was from. Regardless, Long Boi’s fame expanded into new territory as he became another funny-looking creature being reposted to meme accounts.

Like any good celebrity, Long Boi made some TV and radio appearances

It seemed that internet fame and his role as campus mascot weren’t enough for Long Boi! His fame has led to him being reported on by countless national news outlets like ITV and the BBC. Most impressively of all, Long Boi was mentioned on the popular US talk show, The Late Late Show. Host James Corden commented:

 “A duck in England has gone viral because he’s just a tall duck.”

Corden’s comment pretty much sums up everything that’s great about Long Boi’s fame; it’s wholesome and funny, and he’s just a tall duck who makes peoples’ days brighter by being tall. Aside from this appearance, Long Boi also appeared on BBC Radio One’s Breakfast Show. The show’s host, Greg James, is a big Long Boi fan and was thrilled when he finally managed to get the celebrity duck featured. On March 7th, 2023, Long Boi made his guest appearance on BBC Radio One. His only comment about being featured was a modest quack into the microphone.

The end of an era

So how does the story of Long Boi end? Unfortunately, it’s a pretty sad and unexpected ending for everyone’s favorite long duck. After over two months of no confirmed sightings of Long Boi on campus, the University concluded that Long Boi is no more. On the university’s waterfowl Instagram page, they announced that:

“With no sightings since March, I think we can now assume the rumours [of his death] are true”

Although they cannot confidently say that Long Boi has passed away, little evidence suggests he’s still alive. This announcement led to an outpouring of tributes to Long Boi, including doughnuts, ChatGTP poems, and a Long Boi-themed club night. The University of York’s Student Union even started a fundraiser to raise money for a memorial of some sort for Long Boi!

What all these tributes show is that everyone has room in their lives for animals. Similar reactions were seen when other meme animals passed away, such as Gabe the dog and Grumpy Cat. Animals will always be the superior meme personalities as their humour comes from looking cute or doing something funny. While many memes are entertaining at the expense of specific vulnerable groups or propagating negative messages, animal-centred memes are wholesome fun everyone can enjoy. Long Boi brought so many people joy and, despite no longer being with us, will continue to live on through the endless amount of memes (and several tattoos!) he inspired.

Written By

Postgraduate student studying journalism at Edinburgh Napier University. Fandom enthusiast and ex-Wattpad writer.

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