With fans cheering and loud music blasting, Bevo the steer is led out onto the football field with chains wrapped around his face.
A cloud of fake smoke billows out behind the massive animal as he emerges from behind the scenes to be paraded around by his handlers to entertain the boisterous football fans.
As the live mascot for the Texas Longhorns, it’s a routine he’s likely done hundreds of times. But at last week’s Allstate Sugar Bowl game in New Orleans, Bevo took control — and it could’ve been deadly.
The steer spotted a bulldog on the field, who is the University of Georgia’s live mascot, and charged through his metal corral into a crowd of bystanders. A video from the sideline shows people fleeing and screaming as Bevo’s handlers struggle to restrain him.
No one was seriously injured in the chaotic incident — but now, animal advocates are calling on the University of Texas to end its live mascot program, citing concerns that it is dangerous for both Bevo and the teams’ fans. An online petition to stop the risky practice, addressed to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, has already garnered over 59,000 signatures.
Renee King, executive director of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary in Angleton, Texas, is certain the constant traveling and noise required for the stunts are very stressful for Bevo, whom she says could easily have trampled and killed someone during the recent incident.
She would much prefer the steer be left to live in peace among his herd, instead of being hauled back and forth as an attraction at games.
“This is a 1,700-pound animal,” King told The Dodo. “They put him on a leash, but basically if that steer wants to go, a lead is not going to stop him. It’s very dangerous to put an animal of that size and magnitude out there and expect them to act like a dog. It’s just irrational.”
Rowdy Girl Sanctuary is a former cattle ranch that’s now home to many rescued animals, including a longhorn steer named Frosty. His horns span nearly 5 feet across — which can pose a hazard to people if the steer gets spooked or is feeling rambunctious.
“He’s not mean at all, but he knows he can get his way with those huge horns,” King said. “He’ll push his friends out of the way to get food because he knows they’ll get out of the way… With Bevo having such big horns, this situation could have been really bad. They were handling him by holding onto his horns, actually gripping and pulling the end of his horns to restrain him. I could never imagine grabbing our longhorn [Frosty] and trying to restrain him. That is so wrong.”
Since the incident, groups like PETA have blasted both of the university’s decisions to include animals in their sporting events.
While many universities have stopped using live animals as mascots all together due to welfare concerns and the cost of keeping them, Louisiana State University actually houses a live tiger right around the corner from the college’s sports stadium. Texas State University has used a longhorn in its football games since 1916, repeatedly replacing each steer when he passes away.
Until more people speak up, King worries that Bevo will keep on being carted to the noisy stadiums — this time, with even more force used to control him.
“I could tell Bevo was not happy at all to be there,” King said. “The mentality his handlers seem to have toward him is really horrible. He’s being treated as a commodity instead of a living being.”