Q: Last fall, my family attended a football game at UT-Austin, where my son will enroll as a Longhorn this fall. Late in the fourth quarter, while roasting in the Texas sun, I noticed the paddock on the field and wondered, “What happens when that beloved Bevo dies?”
Mei Lisa Thompson, Santa Monica, California
A: Many, many decades ago, the Texanist was lucky to spend a few of the happiest years of his life at the University of Texas at Austin. So he knows of what he speaks on matters pertaining to the state’s flagship institution of higher education—and of collegiate-style merrymaking.
Things were very different during those long-gone days of yore; there was no internet, telephones were hardwired to each other like two cans and a length of string, and decent sushi couldn’t be found anywhere in the Capital City. But students didn’t eat sushi, beer cost about a buck, and the drinking age was nineteen, so we had that going for us. Plus, it was much easier to get into UT in that bygone era. Were the Texanist to graduate today from dear old Temple High School (Go Wildcats!) with the same GPA that he had back then, there’s no telling where he might end up for his advanced lessons. Perhaps he’d be an Aggie!
The Texanist jests, of course. Still, despite all the changes that have ensued over the years, some things have remained very much the same, such as the UT community’s rabid support for its teams. This sort of fervent allegiance, which can be found at any Texas college worth its salt, happens to be the key ingredient in the phenomenon known to social scientists as school spirit, a mysterious force that binds together folks from very disparate backgrounds.
But while it’s true that college teams are generally beloved by students, faculty, and alumni, it’s the living, breathing beasts serving as the physical embodiments of said school spirit who occupy a particularly special place in the hearts of fans. Just think about the many cherished live mascots that can be found in Texas. In addition to UT’s Bevo XV, a Longhorn steer, there’s Baylor University’s Judge Indy and Judge Belle, a pair of American black bear cubs who debuted in the job this summer; Houston Christian University’s Wakiza III, a Siberian husky; Southern Methodist University’s Peruna IX, who, despite the team’s name, is a black Shetland pony, not a mustang; Texas A&M’s Reveille X, an American rough collie, a.k.a. the “first lady of Aggieland”; the University of Houston’s Shasta VII, a cougar; and West Texas A&M’s confusingly named Thunder and Thunder, both of whom are American bison. In Lubbock one can also encounter Texas Tech’s Masked Rider, who, mounted atop a lively jet-black quarter horse, is not a typical live-animal mascot. But human beings, as even your average Aggie knows, are members of the animal kingdom too, so the judges will allow it.
Where such acclaimed creatures end up depends on the school and, in many cases, on the decade of their final departure. The cremains of each Baylor bear are placed in a chest that was handcrafted out of wood sourced from the university’s on-campus bear habitat and stored in the school’s gold-domed Pat Neff Hall. At Houston Christian one can head over to the grounds of the basketball gym and gaze at the markers standing atop the graves of two early huskies. (More recently the school has retired its mascots into the care of individuals who have made a connection with the animals. When the time comes, the dogs are presumably dealt with in a respectful manner.)
Likewise, SMU has laid to rest a number of Perunas at various locations around campus. Texas A&M inters its deceased Reveilles in a Reveille-exclusive cemetery located at the north end of Kyle Field that features a special scoreboard so the former first ladies can keep up with the action on game days. U of H’s Shastas seem to move on much as they live, which is to say somewhat stealthily; the cats that came before Shasta VII aren’t memorialized in any manner, though the school informs the Texanist that some sort of tribute at the alumni center is under consideration.
Each of West Texas A&M’s bison is memorialized at the south end of Bain-Schaeffer Buffalo Stadium, though the first one, which was sold to the school in 1922 by the legendary rancher and noted bison preservationist Charles Goodnight and his wife, Mary Ann, was taxidermied and eventually donated to the nearby Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. As for Tech’s Masked Riders, the Texanist was relieved to learn that they’re not stuffed and put on display. After the big dismount, they go the way of the rest of us, though presumably an obituary will note their services to the school.
But to get to the heart of your question, Ms. Thompson, what awaits UT-Austin’s beloved mascot after he has shuffled off his mortal coil? Though the Texanist knew of a permanent exhibit dedicated to Bevos past in the bowels of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, he didn’t know where any of their literal bodies were buried or whether Bevo XV would join them when his time comes. Luckily, the Texanist was able to get ahold of Ricky Brennes, the executive director of UT-Austin’s Silver Spurs Alumni Association and as close to a Bevo expert as there is. Brennes informed the Texanist that in recent decades Bevos have been privately owned and that decisions related to their afterlives have been left to the individual owners.
Though Brennes could not account for the ultimate destiny of each of Bevo XV’s predecessors, he was able to provide details on some of them. A few of the earliest Bevos, he said, were sourced from Fort Griffin, in Albany, just outside of Abilene, the site of the state’s official Longhorn herd, and were returned there after their terms of service. Closer to home, the horns of Bevo VII hang in the school’s football complex, and Bevo IX’s shoulder mount adorns the office of the athletic director. The shoulder mounts of Bevos X, XI, and XII are currently in private hands, though Brennes was not at liberty to reveal whose hands, specifically.
Interestingly, the Longhorn who started it all, Bevo I (the school’s first mascot was a dog named Pig), made a single official appearance, at the 1916 Thanksgiving Day game with Texas A&M, and was, despite a solid 21–7 Longhorns’ victory, eventually, slaughtered, barbecued, and devoured. That seems like a cruel way to treat a steer who wanted nothing more than to bring smiles to the faces of thousands of football fans. But at least he made for good eatin’.
Or did he? The Texanist’s colleague Daniel Vaughn, the magazine’s barbecue editor, says that Longhorn “doesn’t usually have great marbling, so the brisket would be dry and stringy. Sausage would be about the only way to make a dead Bevo tolerable to eat.” The Texanist hopes it never comes to that. Better that we feast on the ground-up remains of all those nuisance whitetail deer or that endless supply of feral hogs wreaking havoc across the state.
As for Bevo XV, the Texanist cannot foretell the future with complete assurance, but given that the past is often prologue, he’s comfortable in making a prediction. Bevo XV’s immediate forebears, Bevo XIII (the school’s winningest and longest-serving mascot) and Bevo XIV were raised on a ranch in Liberty Hill, just northwest of Austin, by John T. Baker and his wife, Betty, and lived out their postretirement days there. Today, the shoulder mounts and hides now hang in Baker’s home, and someday, when Bevo XV’s time on earth is done, his will presumably join those of his brethren. That would be a fitting and proper end for a noble beast who will hopefully bring as much joy to your son, Ms. Thompson, as Bevo XII and XIII provided the Texanist lo those many seasons ago. And, fingers crossed, many more victories.
Thanks for the letter, and Hook ’em, Horns!
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.
This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Texas Monthly. Subscribe today.