Oorang Indians


In the history of the National Football League, there never has been a team quite like the Oorang Indians. Members of the NFL in 1922 and 1923, the Oorang Indians were organized by Walter Lingo, the owner of the Oorang Dog Kennels in the small town of LaRue, Ohio. Lingo organized the team for the sole purpose of advertising his kennel and selling a breed of dog known as the Airedale. "Let me tell you about my big publicity stunt," Lingo wrote in a 1923 edition of Oorang Comments, his monthly magazine devoted to singing the praises of Airedales. "You know Jim Thorpe, don’t you, the Sac and Fox Indian, the world’s greatest athlete, who won the all-around championship at the Olympic Games in Sweden in 1912?" Well, Thorpe is in our organization."

1922 Oorang Indians led by the legendary Jim Thorpe (center, back row)

Lingo went on to explain that he had placed Thorpe in charge of an all-Indian football team that toured the country’s leading cities for the express purpose of advertising his Airedale dogs. The team roster included such names as Long Time Sleep, Joe Little Twig, Big Bear, War Eagle, and Thorpe. Since Lingo’s plan was to advertise his dogs and kennel, the Indians played only one home game. However, since tiny LaRue had no football field the game was actually played in neighboring Marion, Ohio.

The Indians were not a very good team. In fact, they won only three games in two years. Of course the players must have found it difficult to take their football seriously when you consider what Lingo had in mind. The pre-game and halftime activities were more important than the results of the game.

Entertainment, both prior to the games and during halftimes, was provided by the players and the Airedale dogs. There were shooting exhibitions with the dogs retrieving the targets. There were Indian dances and tomahawk and knife-throwing demonstrations. Long Time Sleep even wrestled a bear on occasion.

At first the Oorang Indians were an excellent gate attraction. However, the novelty eventually wore off and Lingo pulled his financial backing. So, at the end of the 1923 season, the Oorang Indians, undoubtedly pro football’s most unusual team, folded their tents and shut down for good.