September | October 2016

Bevo XV.

Long May He Reign

Celebrating 100 years of Bevo—and getting to know the newest steer to hold the title

by Rose Cahalan
Photo by Randal Ford

Long May He Reign

Celebrating 100 years of Bevo—and getting to know the newest steer to hold the title

by Rose Cahalan
Photo by Randal Ford

The biggest and most beloved mascot in college sports is, at present, napping under a grove of shady oak trees. An 18-month-old longhorn steer with a tawny orange hide and 40-inch horns still pink with new growth, he’s curled up next to his friend—another young steer named, for obvious reasons, Two Spot—with eyes closed and head lowered in the late-morning July heat.

Until he hears Betty coming, that is. Betty Baker parks the ATV she uses to get around her ranch, hops off with a nimbleness that belies her years, and walks through a tangle of thorns and brush toward the patch of grass where her prize steer sits. His orange ears swivel, his head lifts, and his dark doey eyes blink as she nears.

By the time you read this, this steer will be crowned Bevo XV, but for now his official name is still Sunrise Spur. To Betty, he will always be “punkin.” “My sweet baby!” she coos, proffering his favorite treat, a cube of hay. “It’s so good to see you.”

The Longhorn Who Will Be King rises to his feet, envelops the treat with his enormous pink tongue, and tilts his head so Betty can scratch between his ears. “Oh, I know,” she says. “You have a good life out here.”

He does indeed. His Majesty, as Betty’s husband John calls him, has 250 acres on which to roam at the Bakers’ ranch outside Austin. He enjoys a spacious pen, the company of other steers and cows—“Longhorns are sociable creatures,” John says—and all the hay he can eat. On Sept. 4, he will travel in the comfort of a custom-built, air-conditioned trailer to his spot outside the end zone of Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium, delighting thousands of adoring fans.

There wasn’t supposed to be a new Bevo so soon. Longhorns often live well into their 20s, and everyone was shocked when Bevo XIV died suddenly of bovine leukemia last October at the age of 13. The search for his successor began immediately. “We wanted to take our time with this decision, because this is going to be the world’s most famous longhorn steer,” says Ricky Brennes, BS ’00, Life Member, executive director of the Silver Spurs Alumni Association, the spirit organization that handles Bevo. “We wanted to make sure that we got the very best for Texas.”

Bevo XV at home on Sunrise Ranch.

Brennes and his peers spent seven months searching for the next Bevo. They cast a wide net, visiting cattle shows, talking to breeders all around the state, and duly considering the hundreds of unsolicited emails, letters, tweets, and calls that poured in. “It seems like everybody with a few acres has a longhorn,” says Kevin Millin, ’73, who chaired the selection committee*. The Spurs fielded more than 100 inquiries from as far off as Oregon, Washington, Florida, Louisiana, and Maryland. Many candidates were swiftly eliminated because they were born out of state; the Spurs thought it only right that a native Texan fill the role. Others weren’t the perfect shade of burnt-orange—a rare color in longhorns, according to Betty Baker. “A lot of them are reddish or maroon,” she says, “and we certainly don’t want that.”

The committee was also looking for a young, easy-to-train steer with a calm temperament. It is a lot to ask of an animal to attend more than 40 events per year, including standing in a noisy, chaotic football stadium before as many as 100,000 fans, and the majority of steers simply aren’t up to the task. The history of the mascot bears this out. Over the last century, Bevos have charged fans, photographers, and players; stampeded across the campus; kicked out their trailers; and otherwise asserted their wildness. These failures have been far less frequent in recent decades, now that the selection process is much more thorough than simply plucking a longhorn at random out of a herd, but they still serve as a reminder that steers are huge, powerful, and potentially dangerous creatures.

In November, Brennes brought six candidates to a Longhorn Band practice for an audition of sorts, to see how they would handle the noise and commotion. One stood out. “He was really good-looking,” Brennes remembers. “Great coloring, great disposition. We didn’t know yet what was in his future, but we kept an eye on him.” The steer went on to win the titles of junior champion and grand champion at a longhorn show, beating out much older and bigger competitors. He has exceptional conformation, a term that ranchers use to describe well-built animals that fit the standards of the breed. With his muscular build, well-formed horns, and hide spotted with just the right shade of orange, Bevo XV is a bovine Adonis. By May, the Spurs had made their decision. Another plus: He is owned by the Bakers, who also bred Bevos XIII and XIV, and thus are familiar with the unique challenges and responsibilities that come with a celebrity steer. “We looked everywhere,” Brennes says, “but John just seems to grow ’em on trees.”

The Bakers have spent the summer preparing Bevo XV for primetime. In addition to taking him to shows, they’ve hung flags in his pen (Bevo XIV was afraid of them), played him music on a boombox, and tossed a football near him in an effort to simulate the experiences he’ll have in the stadium. And the head-scratches, belly rubs, and praise that Betty bestows on him daily are more than just the sign of an adoring parent—they’re practice for the contact he will soon have with fans.

The walls of the Bakers’ home are lined with Bevo memorabilia and photos. Statues, signed game balls, plaques, and ribbons are everywhere. The stairway banisters glint with dozens of silver Bevo belt buckles. There’s a framed photo of Betty and John in their finest with Bevo XIII at George W. Bush’s inaugural presidential ball, and Betty and John with Bevo XIV at the 2005 national championship. “Where he goes, we go,” John says.

Bevo XV is one of the youngest steers to ever take the field for Texas. When the season kicks off, he will still have his baby teeth. It’ll be an adjustment for fans who were used to the much larger Bevo XIV, and there will surely be some good-natured teasing. But a young mascot also seems fitting for Charlie Strong’s young team. “I like the idea of people getting to watch him grow up with the team,” says Brennes. “In a way, he belongs to the fans. He belongs to Texas.”

100 Years of Bevo


Pig Bellmont. Briscoe Center for American History

UT gets its first mascot—not a Longhorn, but a white-and-tan dog named Pig Bellmont.

Pig was named after L. Theo Bellmont, the university’s first athletics director, as well as Gus “Pig” Dittmar, who played center on the football team. Bellmont brought Pig to work with him, and the friendly pup soon developed a reputation around the campus. Much like A&M’s Reveille does today, Pig often went to classes and campus events in addition to football games. A custom letter “T” was even affixed to his collar, designating him as an official UT letterman. Sadly, Pig’s reign ended when he was struck by a Ford Model T on Jan. 1, 1923.


The first Bevo makes his debut at the Thanksgiving Day UT vs. A&M game.

Alumnus Stephen Pinckney, who first suggested the idea of a live Longhorn mascot, had participated in West Texas cattle raids in his previous job with the U.S. Attorney General’s office. A stolen steer from Laredo with an orange hide caught his eye, so Pinckney raised $125 in $1 donations from alumni to buy the steer and ship it to Austin by rail. At halftime, a group of Texas Exes dragged the frightened 1,200-pound Longhorn onto the field. The Daily Texan would later describe him as “the most recalcitrant freshman ever bulldozed into higher education.” Traumatized and unprepared for a public appearance, Bevo I left at halftime. UT won the game 21-7, but the university wouldn’t have a mascot again for the next 20 years.


Bevo: It's what's for dinner.

With the care of the first Bevo at a ranch near Austin costing the university a then-hefty 60 cents per day, and his temperament too unstable for a safe return to football games, UT officials made the decision to slaughter the unfortunate steer. He was fattened up, barbecued, and eaten at the January 1920 football banquet. In attendance were 100 UT lettermen and invited Aggie guests, who were presented with the hide they had branded “13-0” after beating UT the previous year.

The invitation to the 1920 football banquet promised guests that Bevo's "juicy steaks will be awaiting your appetite." Briscoe Center for American History


Bevo II gets banned

Like his predecessor, Bevo II had a temper—which is why he appeared in public only four times. The first was at the pep rally before the 1936 UT vs. SMU game, when more than 4,200 students cheered on his introduction outside Gregory Gym. At the game the next day, though, he kicked out the sides of his trailer. UT students alleged that the incident was the fault of an SMU yell leader, who hit the steer on the head with a megaphone. After nearly escaping, he was promptly removed from the stadium, “to the relief of the crowd and the team,” as the Alcalde noted.

Some speculated that Bevo II was actually a hereford rather than a longhorn, since he had unusually short horns, but today we don’t know for sure. Regardless, in December the Athletic Council voted 5-1 to permanently ban him from the stadium, and Bevo II was sent back home to the Diamond T Ranch.


Bevo III

After 13 years without a mascot, the university decided to try again—this time, with a longhorn from the San Antonio Zoo. Things finally went a little better. Bevo III began his career at the Texas Tech game, which UT won 33-0, and he went on to lead the Longhorns to their third consecutive Southwest Conference championship. He was also the first Bevo cared for by the Silver Spurs, who have managed the mascot ever since.

Still, after three years his temperament was proving to be too much of a challenge. After he charged a photographer, escaped his pen, and stampeded around campus, Bevo III was eventually returned to the zoo.

How Bevo Got His Name

Contrary to campus mythology, Bevo didn’t get his name after A&M pranksters branded “13-0” into his hide. We know because the name first appeared in this very magazine a full two months before the branding took place. In the December 1916 issue of the Alcalde, editor Ben Dyer recounted the steer’s debut at the Thanksgiving game, writing simply, “His name is Bevo. Long may he reign!”

Beyond that, the full etymology is unclear. Pinckney or Dyer could have invented the word. Other common theories include borrowing the name from a popular non-alcoholic Anheuser-Busch beer of the time or drawing from the word “beeve”—the plural of beef and a slang term for a cow or steer that’s set to become food. Regardless of its origins, it’s safe to say the name Bevo is all Longhorn.


Bevo IV

The Daily Texan called Bevo IV, an 8-year-old steer who hailed from Fort Griffin State Historic Site in Breckenridge, “the meanest of them all” and “just about the biggest, wildest, rarin’-est steer you’ve ever seen.” While 11 handlers led him into the stadium for his first appearance, he rammed a parked car. Later that year, he made an impressive leap over an 8-foot fence. After just one season, it was back to Fort Griffin for him.


Bevo I was fattened up, barbecued, and eaten at the January 1920 football banquet—not just by 100 UT lettermen, but also by invited Aggie guests, who were presented with the hide they had branded "13-0".

Bevo V

After past failures, the Silver Spurs decided to try raising their next Bevo from calfhood instead of attempting to train a full-grown steer. The strategy worked. Bevo V was known for his calm demeanor, and he served for five years. He was also the first to travel with the team, heading to South Bend, Indiana, for the Notre Dame game. Never mind that he kicked a caretaker while in an unfamiliar stable on that trip; it was just an aberration for this otherwise zen-like longhorn.


Bevo VI

Bevo VI is best-known for charging the Rice bench during a game—a feat which the Longhorns cheered on. He only lasted two seasons.


Bevo VII

Bevo VII arrived on campus at the same time as new coach Darrell K Royal, who would go on to become UT’s winningest football coach of all time, racking up three national championships, 11 Southwest Conference championships, and 167 wins. Just as the team’s star rose, so too did Bevo’s: Bevo VII was the most beloved, calmest mascot to fill the role yet. He even kept his cool when the Aggies kidnapped him in 1963. The Spurs called in the Texas Rangers to help in the search, eventually locating him in College Station. When word got out, a mob of jeering Aggies blocked his trailer in the street as he underwent a veterinary exam in Bryan. Luckily, he was unharmed, and that Saturday the Horns beat the Aggies, 15-13.

Bevo VII munches some hay in 1957. Briscoe Center for American History



Nicknamed “Old Will” (it’s unclear why), this Bevo was donated by former UT regent Major S.R. Parten, and was so feisty that he lasted only one season on the job.


Bevo IX

The longest-serving steer at the time, this mascot was well-behaved, except for one quirk: He didn’t like being around women. Bevo IX was also kidnapped twice in 1972, by both the Owls and the Aggies. He helped the Longhorns win the 1969 and 1970 national championships.

Bevo XIII amused fans by leaving his mark atop the Nebraska Cornhuskers logo on the field during the Big 12 title game.


Silver Spur Dean Stocker explains a play to Bevo at the 1978 UT-Baylor game while Molly McGannon looks on. Briscoe Center for American History

Bevo X

This Bevo hailed from the Hardin Ranch outside Vernon and was known for his hatred of the color red and the smell of perfume. In a game against Houston in 1972, he took an accidental hit from Earl Campbell. “To this day, I think I am the only one to knock Bevo down,” Campbell would later recall.


Bevo XI

Bevo XI was never meant to be a permanent mascot, but rather a temp until his successor was full-grown. They even appeared together at the 1981 Texas Tech game.


Bevo XII and his handlers circa 1982-84. Briscoe Center for American History

Bevo XII

Bevo XII’s behavior was said to be unpredictable, a problem that only worsened over his six years on the field. In 1987 his trailer flipped in an accident on the MoPac Expressway, and he was never the same.



Possibly the most beloved Bevo of all time, this long-serving creature was the first bred by John and Betty Baker, who also provided both his successors. Dubbed the “Gentleman Bevo” by the Daily Texan , he was serene enough to cheer up sick kids at the Brackenridge Children’s Hospital. But his most impressive appearance was at President George W. Bush’s inaugural ball in 2001. Another famous moment came in 1996, when he amused fans by leaving his mark atop the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ logo on the field during the Big 12 title game in St. Louis.


After Bevo XIV's retirement was announced in fall 2015, the Silver Spurs brought the Golden Hat trophy on a visit to his ranch. Texas Athletics

Bevo XIV

Known originally as Sunrise Studly, Bevo XIV was a gentle soul from the time he started the job at age 2. He even obediently rolled onto his back for belly rubs when owner Betty Baker (who preferred to call him “Baby”) approached his stall. With an impressive 6-foot hornspan, he consumed some 60 pounds of food per day. Bevo XIV’s reign included the 2005 national championship. He was also a social animal, known for sticking close to his best friend, another steer named Sunrise Spike. Like his predecessor, he attended a Bush inauguration, and he also was kind enough to invite Reveille to his ranch for some time together.

The two got along great, Betty Baker later told the Alcalde. “She never once barked at him, and he never tried to hook her,” she said. Sadly, Bevo XIV died from a rare case of bovine leukemia during the 2015 season, and the search for his replacement began immediately.


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