The 1,700-pound longhorn paced in its makeshift pen as the 60-pound bulldog trotted over toward the giant steer to say hello.
It was more than an hour before the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, pitting college football teams Texas against Georgia, and this was one of the hundreds of photo ops before the big game.
The moment that unfolded got very scary before it became cute and went viral, but one familiar voice in the debate on animals’ place in the world is calling it a “near-tragedy.”
That’s right; it’s People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. The group says in a new blog post that Bevo charging at Uga during the mascots’ pregame meeting is just more evidence that “animals don’t belong in football stadiums.”
PETA says in the blog that it sent letters to the University of Georgia and the University of Texas, urging both schools to stop using live animals as football mascots.
A mass of photographers, school personnel and game officials were near the scene where Bevo XV put his head down and knocked over one of his barriers, moving toward Uga as his handler pulled the dog’s leash away from the situation. A couple of Bevo’s handlers put themselves between the longhorn, whose horns are 58 inches tip to tip, according to the Daily Texan, and members of the crowd, video of the confrontation shows.
One photographer for the Austin American Statesman showed the marks from where those 58 inches scraped across his back in the moment of chaos.
“I was focusing on getting a shot of Georgia’s live mascot Uga. I just remember looking back and locking eyes with Bevo before feeling him buck my back,” Nick Wagner told the newspaper.
But PETA isn’t basing its latest complaint on safety concerns for humans.
“Live animals used as mascots, such as Baylor University’s bears and the University of North Alabama’s lions, are held in captivity and often denied the opportunity to fulfill many of their most basic instincts,” PETA wrote. “They’re frequently carted around to sporting events and public appearances, which are confusing and frightening for them. Human mascots can engage with sports fans, pose for pictures, lead cheers, and pump up their teams and fans much better than a terrified animal can. They’re also much less expensive for schools, and some universities offer scholarships for student mascots.”
PETA’s post also notes that most universities that formerly used animal mascots stopped doing so “decades ago.”
One South Carolina university has already said it has no plans to stop using its live mascots.
The Citadel, a military college located in Charleston, says it has two live animal mascots - Boo and The General.
Like Uga, Boo and The General are English bulldogs. In fact, The General comes from the same bloodline as Uga, according to The Citadel’s website.
In spite of PETA’s wishes, they are not going anywhere, except for the sideline, according to a spokesman for The Citadel.
“Boo and (The) General will continue to proudly serve their beloved institution as mascots,” spokesman John Dorrian said Thursday, according to postandcourier.com. “They are cherished members of The Citadel family, and are well-cared for at all times.”
The Citadel owns both bulldogs and solicits donations on its website to help with the “feeding and care” of its mascots.
“Boo and General’s main duty is to provide morale for the Corps of Cadets, faculty and staff and all of the Bulldog athletic teams,” according to the website. “Other duties include barking at opposing teams, eating numerous dog biscuits throughout the day and being pampered by the cadets (who) help take care of them while school is in session.”
In spite of that “pampered” lifestyle, PETA doesn’t want animals brought to sporting events.
“Dogs deserve better than to be shuffled from game to game as if they were sporting equipment,” Georgia graduate and PETA research associate Emily Trunnell wrote to UGA President Jere Morehead, the Athens-Banner Herald reported.
UGA has not commented on PETA’s request.
Bevo vs. Uga wasn’t the start of the controversy surrounding live animal mascots, though Micheal Lewis, a marketing professor at Emory University in Atlanta, told CNN that people’s views toward live animal mascots have shifted somewhat in recent years.
Live animal mascots date to 1889, when Yale student Andrew Graves started bringing his English bulldog, which would become the first iteration of Yale’s mascot, Handsome Dan, to football and baseball games, according to Yale News.
Texas won the Sugar Bowl, 28-21.