How One Longhorn has Made a Career Out of Painting Bevos

Cathy Sue Munson sat inside her art studio just off North MoPac in West Austin. It was mid afternoon on a summer day in 2012 and she had just returned from a monthslong stay in Houston, where she was receiving radiation treatment for uterine cancer at MD Anderson. 

She hadn’t been to her studio much lately. The treatment was siphoning off most of her energy, and she regularly felt tired and weak. But earlier that day she received a phone call at home from the jeweler whose workshop neighbored hers. She called to tell Munson, BFA ’73, that a man was there, looking to commission some art. Reluctantly, Munson told him to return later that day.   

There she sat, peering out the glass entrance doors waiting for the mysterious client. That’s when she noticed an orange and white metal trailer parked in front of her studio. Stamped on its side was the iconic UT Austin Longhorn. A couple of young men knocked on her door and beckoned. They were members of the Silver Spurs, the student service organization responsible for the care and transportation of Texas’ mascot. There was someone they wanted her to see: Bevo XIV, with flowers in tow. 

“Oh my gosh, I cried so hard,” Munson, 70, says in her characteristic sweet, high-pitched Texas drawl. “That was one of the nicest things that ever happened to me in my life.” 

Munson says Bevo XIV—who died in 2015—was like family to her. In fact, she feels a special connection with just about every Bevo that has come and gone over the last 40 years. 

Since the late 1970s, Munson, a native Austinite whose “blood runs burnt orange,” has painted nearly every steer who has served as Texas’ mascot. Whether you’ve heard her name before, you’ve more than likely seen her work. Her detailed watercolor portraits of Bevos through the decades are everywhere: the baseball stadium, for sale at the UT Co-op, on display at the Alumni Center, and quite possibly even hanging on your wall at home.   

She’s made her name around Texas as a wildlife painter and renowned dog artist. Even Gov. Greg Abbott, BBA ’81, Life Member, Distinguished Alumnus, commissioned her to paint his pets Oreo and Pancake in 2015. And she’d been painting Bevos for her own enjoyment or for fellow Longhorn fans for a while. But her first official gig as Bevo’s personal portraitist was in 1978, when then-Texas track and field coach Cleburne Price reached out to her. 

When he was off the track, Price was a bit of an art enthusiast and a hunter. He had seen Munson’s wildlife work and asked her to be in an art show he was producing that happened to be in conjunction with a Texas Relays event. For the show, Munson created a portrait of Bevo X, marking the start of her long partnership working with the university. “Bevo X was this really dark burnt orange, and the whole front of his face was this white patch,” she says. “He was beautiful.” 

Munson starts rattling off all the Bevos she has painted over the years. “I never got to do Bevo XI, he was only the mascot for a year … Bevo XIII was gorgeous …”  

But it was in 1983 that she got her shining moment. Texas Athletics was gearing up for its centennial celebration, and they asked Munson for a portrait of Bevo XII to be printed on the cover of a special edition football program. 

It’s no wonder Munson can describe every Bevo from memory. She says when she knows a portrait is going to be a special print, she’ll take about three to four weeks to complete one in her studio. “I’m very detailed,” she says. “I’m intricate and take these tiny brushes to do each and every little hair.”  

Munson’s Bevo prints have hung in the offices of Texas greats like football coach Darrell K Royal and baseball coach Augie Garrido. Her lifesize oil mural of a herd of longhorns, led by Bevo XIII, currently decorates the suites area of the north end zone of the football stadium. Around football coach Mack Brown’s desk, you could find Munson’s painting of Bevo XIV, titled “Legacy of Champions” and done in honor of the 2006 National Championship win.   

Her latest print is called “Texas Tough,” featuring the current mascot, Bevo XV, storming onto the field with a puff of white smoke surrounding him. She’s had the pleasure of getting to know Bevo XV since he was first chosen in 2016. He was just about 2 years old then and she gifted his portrait to John and Betty Baker, Bevo’s owners who house him at their ranch just outside of Austin. Betty tells Munson that Bevo XV can even recognize Munson’s voice. “I guess ’cause I’ve known him since he was itty bitty,” Munson says, “but the Bakers say he always knows when I’m talking to him.”  

These days, she’s thrilled to say she’s cancer free. She lives with her brand-new puppy, Dealer, in her house just down the street from where she grew up in Austin. She likes to travel and participates in a yearly plein air show in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Munson is also an avid Texas sports fan (her dad, Charlie Munson, was on the 1949 Longhorn baseball team, the first to win a national championship). She rarely misses a home football game and even when she doesn’t have anyone to go with, she knows she’s bound to find a friend. “I’ve been so lucky to be a part of this UT community,” she says. “Everyone has just always been so good to me.” 

There aren’t many people who Bevo would show up and surprise. But there’s something special about Munson. When Bevo XIV died of bovine leukemia in 2015, she felt like she had to do something for him. So, she went down to the home game against Kansas, the first game without Bevo XIV, and gave the Spurs a bouquet of flowers. 

“I love the Bevos,” she says wistfully. “But I really loved Bevo XIV. I will never ever forget that he was the one who came to see me.”  

CREDIT: Summer Miles, Cathy Sue Munson



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