Live animal mascots
Last month the University of Texas mascot and longhorn steer Bevo XIV died at the age of 13 from leukemia. A popular animal, Bevo XIV travelled to the Rose Bowl twice and also attended the last inauguration of President G.W. Bush in Washington D.C. He was the most recent mascot animal from a line of longhorn steers selected since 1916 at Texas, and the search for Bevo XV is underway for the 2016 season to continue the 100 year tradition.
Approximately thirty-three colleges maintain live animals as mascots (Steinbach, 2008). Like Bevo XIV, they have names and stories that are part of college tradition. One example is Ralphie V, the bison mascot of the University of Colorado Buffalos. She was donated by Ted Turner and is run out onto the field by a group of five student handlers and can reach 25 miles per hour. In 2008 Ralphie V almost broke lose before a crowd of 17,800 at halftime but subsequently has remained under control. Two Universities maintain birds as mascots: Auburn has an eagle named Warbird VII and the Air Force Academy a falcon named Mach 1. Several colleges have dogs as animal mascots, such as the University of Tennessee Bluetick Coonhound Smokey X. In 1955 Smokey II was dognapped by University of Kentucky students, and later Smokey IX was accused of biting a University of Alabama player in 2006. Another dog, Reveille IX, is mascot at Texas A&M. A gorgeous collie, Reveille IX is named like her predecessors for the bugle rally that made the original mascot bark in 1931. All the Reveilles are buried together just outside the stadium. Other dog mascots are Butler Blue III, an English Bulldog for Butler University, Uga, also a bulldog, at the University of Georgia, and Dubs, an Alaskan malamute, for the University of Washington.
Keeping live animals as mascots involves responsibilities and potential liability, particularly with exotic animals. The animal mascot of LSU is a Bengal tiger called Mike who lives in a 15,000 square foot habitat that cost $3 million dollars to build. This was paid for by donations from fans and alumni after action was taken by the US Dept. of Agriculture (Baranko, 2011). Since the 1960s the University of Arkansas has kept wild hogs, or razorbacks, currently Tusk IV, and Baylor University has cared for live black bears nicknamed ‘Judge’.
A Humane Society official stated that domesticated animals can do well in mascot roles when trained and selected for the right temperament (Steinbach, 2008). Many of the animal mascots are selected by committees for temperament and other qualities. PETA opposes all animal mascots and suggests human mascots replace them (Baranko, 2011).
At the federal level all animal mascots are beneficiaries of the Animal Welfare Act, imposing guidelines and regulations for good animal husbandry. For example, trainers need to be licensed, and legal actions can be brought on behalf of animals. Additionally, almost all states have anti-cruelty statutes.
Baranko, J. (2011). Hear me roar: Should Universities use live animals as mascots? Marquette Sports Law Review, 21(2), 599-619.
Steinbach, P. (2008). Animal Attractions. Athletic Business, 32(6), 228-232.
Dr. Robert Hudson is the Library Director and Archivist at the United States Sports Academy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.