Bevo XIV was intimidating at first glance. His horns spanned 82 inches tip to tip. He weighed 2,100 pounds. He ate 60 pounds of feed and hay each day. And the Texas mascot drank from a bucket that held roughly 30 gallons of water.
Even so, Bevo XIV's handlers insist he was sweet. One of them, Zach Mafrige, was surprised at how much the steer warmed to his caretakers.
"He's a cow and a steer but had the traits of a dog," said Mafrige, an economics senior at Texas. "He was a great animal to interact with."
Bevo XIV served as UT's mascot for 11 years. He attended home football games, university functions and even private events that raised more than $250,000 for underprivileged students in Austin.
But in Fort Worth for Texas' Oct. 3 matchup against No. 4 TCU, Bevo XIV was acting a little off.
"We started noticing when we got to the pin early to brush and feed him, he wasn't eating like he used to," Mafrige said. "He would let [his best friend] Spike eat his food even though used to always be the alpha male. We noticed something wasn't right."
The handlers told John T. and Betty Baker, Bevo XIV's owners. The Bakers took Bevo XIV to a veterinarian and learned the steer had bovine leukemia virus. On Friday, Bevo XIV died in his sleep. He had retired three days earlier.
Photo courtesy of Jordan Prescott
Ricky Brennes, Bevo XIV's regular traveling partner, said the 13-year-old was "cool, calm and smart."
"Bevo XIV was so much more than a traditional mascot – he was so big and strong, but he had such a sweet personality and a gentle soul," Brennes said. "His last few days provided great memories, but we miss him already."
The Bakers, Brennes and handlers alike say Spike was Bevo's best friend. To find Bevo on the ranch, they could search for Spike instead—the two were nearly inseparable. But each home game and appearance, Bevo XIV left his 10-year-old friend for his job. The handlers, four seniors in the Silver Spurs association, arrived two to three hours before each event. They brushed, fed and haltered him, tying a rope around his neck and horns to transport him. Getting Bevo in the truck took anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes, Mafrige said. And Bevo XIV didn't like the delay.
Handler Bryant McKenzie, an advertising senior at Texas, learned that the hard way.
"One time I was trying to halter him and took too long and he swung at me and caught me in the ribs," McKenzie said. "It sucked at the time, but that's something you can tell your grandkids."
McKenzie doesn't have many stories like that for his grandkids, though. Most of the time, he says, Bevo XIV was "very, very calm."
The mascot, originally named Sunrise Studly, knew how to behave. He cheered Texas on at the 2006 National Championship, stood witness to George W. Bush's second presidential inauguration, and befriended visitors including Matthew McConaughey and Adam Sandler. Studly succeeded Bevo XIII, who died in 2006 after a record 16 years on the job. Both steers died within a week of Texas beating rival Oklahoma.
The Silver Spurs Alumni Association hopes to pick and prepare Bevo XV before next football season. 2016 will mark the 100th year of Bevo mascots.
Jori Epstein is SI's campus correspondent at the University of Texas. Follow her on Twitter.