“His name is Bevo. Long may he reign!”
These words, printed in the December 1916 issue of the Alcalde alumni magazine, provide the first evidence of a name for the live longhorn mascot at the University of Texas. The original Bevo made his first and only appearance at halftime that year at the homecoming game against Texas A&M.
In the 101 years since, Bevo has indeed come to reign, through 15 different animals who have encapsulated the spirit and tradition of football at the University of Texas. How he got his name, though, is a tale that has evolved over the years.
Debunking the myth
Nobody knows exactly how it started, but from the story of how Bevo was branded by a group of Texas A&M pranksters rose a pervasive myth that hung around for decades.
As the story went, the name derived from a “13-0” brand placed on the steer in February 1917. That was the score of the 1915 matchup between the schools, which the Aggies won in College Station. For years it was believed that UT students altered that brand to read “Bevo” by changing the “13” to a “B,” adding to the dash so it made an “E,” then squeezing a “V” somewhere in between the dash and the “0.”
According to UT historian Jim Nicar, who researched the Bevo origin story in 2000, the Alcalde excerpt disproves that myth. It’s proof that Bevo had a name before the branding took place.
“That wasn’t the story at all,” Nicar said of the branding myth. “It was complete accident. What we discovered was that for 60 years this was just a big myth, and people saw what had already been written and just repeated it.”
However, there is ample proof that the original mascot lived and died with a “13-0″ brand placed on him by Aggies.
“While Texas University students were debating what should be done with the Longhorn steer…,” reported the Austin Statesman, “a delegation of Aggies stole silently into the pen in which the steer is kept in South Austin and turned the trick.”
In January 1920, no longer wanting to pay 60 cents a day to feed and care for the wild steer, the University had it barbecued as the main course at the football banquet. The side of the hide that was branded “13-0” was given to some invited guests from A&M, with the idea being that the remainder of the hide would be “preserved and properly branded each succeeding year as the Longhorns humble the Farmers,” according to the student-published Longhorn magazine.
The real story
Like with most myths, the true story behind how Bevo got his name is somewhat anticlimactic. Nicar believes the original mascot was likely named by Stephen Pinckney, who organized the purchase of the steer with $1 contributions from himself and 124 fellow alumni.
However, “there is no smoking gun as far as a source,” Nicar said. “The best we can do is the term “beeve” is a plural for beef or also the sort of lingo you would use for a cow or steer that’s destined to become beef.”
How “beeve” became Bevo comes down to a couple different theories.
There was a brand of non-alcoholic beer called “Bevo” that was released in 1916 by Budweiser, for which a full-page ad appeared in the Statesman that December. It was also fashionable to tack an “O” onto the end of words as an endearing nickname, a la the famous comic strip characters created by Gus Mager.
Evolution to Bevo XV
Throughout the past century, the tradition of Bevo the mascot has evolved. It was a slow evolution at first, as Bevo II didn’t appear until 1932.
The Longhorns already had a mascot, a dog named Pig Bellmont who was the longtime pet of athletic director L. Theo Bellmont. The second live longhorn to appear at a football game caused quite a stir, so much so that the athletic council at the time voted to keep the steer out of the stadium.
Nicar said Bevo III came along in 1945, and it was at that time the student organization Silver Spurs was charged with caring for the animal during games.
That organization is now run by Ricky Brennes, who has overseen the handling of Bevo XIII, Bevo XIV and now Bevo XV, who is in his second season as the Longhorns’ mascot.
“Today Bevo is more popular than he’s ever been,” Brennes said. “I think our fans have really enjoyed us picking a younger Bevo and getting to see him grow quite a bit. He is 600 pounds heavier than he was last season, and his horns are growing over an inch a month.”
Bevo has become a part of the program’s rich history, making appearances at every Texas bowl game for the past 50 years including each of the Longhorns’ four national championships.
Brennes said every mascot since Bevo VII has been a trained show steer, accustomed to being around humans and trained to behave in front of large crowds. The handler said the biggest misconception he hears about Bevo is that people believe he is sedated during games.
“If he was so wild he couldn’t handle the situation then he wouldn’t be Bevo,” Brennes said.
When he isn’t at Royal-Memorial Stadium and making other appearances, Bevo XV — also known as Sunrise Spur — spends his days grazing at a ranch near Liberty Hill. He is pampered daily with treats, constant attention from adoring fans and caretakers, and free range on 200-plus acres.
His name is Bevo. Long may he reign.
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