Tuesday night brought one of the most momentous occasions in college football history. Before the Sugar Bowl between the Texas Longhorns and Georgia Bulldogs, retweet-hungry geniuses decided to introduce Texas’s mascot, an awe-inspiring longhorn steer named Bevo, to Georgia’s mascot, a doofy English bulldog named Uga. These are animals, and from time to time they act like them—a past Uga once tried to bite an Auburn player. But we’ve never seen anything like what happened at the Sugar Bowl.
Tale of the Tape
In the red corner, Uga. A purebred English bulldog, Uga X (real name: Que) weighs about 50 pounds and stands about a foot tall.
Bulldogs are called bulldogs because back in the day, cruel and stupid British people would make dogs fight against bulls for sport. The bull won if it killed the dog. The dog won if … uh, quite frankly, I don’t think the dog was supposed to win. It was just supposed to rile up the cow due to the massively incorrect notion that bull-baiting made beef taste better. The prototypical bulldog was meant to be so stubborn that it didn’t back down even in the face of certain death.
Modern-day English bulldogs are wonderful, lovable dogs who are not particularly good at anything. They are ranked as one of the least intelligent breeds and one of the hardest to train—remnants of the stubbornness that helped them battle bulls. They are also extremely unhealthy—the result of humans looking at already-fat dogs and saying, “Hey—I bet we could make this thing flabbier.” They are slow and fat and can’t really breathe and their hips are bad and their hearts give out. Uga’s three predecessors all had tenures of fewer than three seasons before dying of Being English Bulldogs.
In the burnt orange corner, Bevo. A Texas longhorn, Bevo XV (real name: Sunrise Spur) weighs about 1,800 pounds and has 58-inch long horns (and still growing). Bevo clearly has the advantage in this matchup, as he is 36 times heavier than Uga, and his horns are about five times Uga’s height.
Longhorns are not typical cows: They are considered the only breed of cattle to have evolved without human management. Basically, some cattle escaped, and a few generations later people found a feral population of animals with human-sized horns. They are noted for their hardiness, as they are capable of living through weather and grazing conditions that would kill other cattle. They’re not a popular beef breed because while other cattle have been bred to become as fat as possible as quickly as possible, longhorns evolved to survive.
There have been past instances of Bevos attacking things—cars, bands, etc.—but not in a long time, since Texas realized that if it was going to have a roughly one-ton animal on its sidelines, it should pick one who won’t attack things. There is now a formal process for selecting Bevos. In 2016, it took seven months before UT settled on Sunrise Spur, an animal described as “gentle, smart, and curious.” That said, he’d be happiest roaming around an open field, and, contrary to popular belief, he is not sedated.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The Sugar Bowl noted that Saturday was the first time two mascots had met at the Superdome, and well, I think I know why. Humans might be dumb enough to think that the field looks like grass, but trust me: Animals never think for even a second that artificial turf is normal. After an eight-hour drive from his ranch near Austin, I’m betting Bevo was displeased with the green plastic his friends told him was grass.
Things seemed calm:
A TKO, won by Bevo approximately 1.3 seconds into the first round:
Uga is sitting around doing absolutely nothing—you know, like bulldogs are supposed to do—when Bevo charges. Bevo busts through a metal barricade—wow, I really thought that flimsy metal barrier that regular humans can easily lift was going to stop the murdercattle. He nearly gores or tramples a slew of photographers, one of whom came away with a pretty nasty horn mark on his back. But Bevo did not care about the things in his way. He was going to skewer that dog like a shish kebab.
A funny college football subplot this season is that the Big 12 began to penalize Texas’s opponents for flashing the “horns down” symbol—the school’s typical “hook ’em” hand gesture, but flipped. This seemed ridiculous. Normally, officials flag obviously violent gestures like throat slashes and fake gunfire, but pretending a cow is upside down? That’s harmless, right? But maybe the conference is justified: Bevo reminded us that when a bull puts down its horns, it may be trying to murder a small dog.
In the end, it is a good thing that Uga bears little resemblance to his bull-baiting ancestors. A more stubborn bulldog would have stood in and tried to take on an opponent 36 times his size. But Uga’s fight-or-flight instinct kicked in, and the answer was FLIGHT. Thank goodness.
Live animal mascots are one of my favorite things about college sports. I always feel starstruck when I encounter a famous sports animal, in a way I don’t around actual famous humans. They serve as the proxies for sports teams that serve as proxies for colleges that serve as proxies for entire states. They are the embodiment of a thing that so many people love.
Despite entering Tuesday’s game as a 13.5-point underdog, Texas demolished Georgia, taking a 28-7 lead and emerging with a win. (Georgia made the score 28-21 on a meaningless touchdown with 14 seconds left.) Texas saw Bevo’s charge as inspiration, a sign of the team’s fight.
I would like to confirm that the animals have no idea about any of this. I once saw Butler’s bulldog throw up on the court at Madison Square Garden. On Tuesday, I saw Dubs, the Washington husky, on the sideline at the Rose Bowl as his team tried to mount a comeback against Ohio State. He was tugging on a piece of purple foam his handler gave him. The team seemed bummed about its 28-23 loss. The husky continued to do dog stuff.
We’ve become smarter about these animals. Security around Mike, the LSU Tiger, was once so lax that some Tulane fans stole him and then just had a tiger they didn’t know what to do with. But we’ve also become dumber. It is nice that Georgia has a dog and Texas has a longhorn. We don’t need to take pictures of them together, because one of them weighs a ton and has knives attached to his head.