Live Animal Mascots Can Go Tragically Wrong
Most athletic teams and schools have always decked out a student in a costume to pose as their mascot, but there are some who have thought it was OK to use live animals ... often with disastrous consequences.
1. Louisiana Tech's Bulldogs
In 2012, Louisiana Tech was the proud home of Tech XX, a 4-year-old bulldog who would rile up the fans at school football games. He'd been the school mascot since 2008, assuming the role at 3 months old, and was the 20th dog to hold the title. That was all until an employee left Tech outside in 102-degree temperatures and he died from heatstroke - the same thing that killed Tech XX's predecessor, Tech XIX. English bulldogs are susceptible to heatstroke, in part due to respiratory problems that cause them to become short of breath. This oversight cost the employee his job - and cost the dog his life.
2. Texas Tech's Horses
Texas Tech had been using black quarter horses for 40 years when one of them met a tragic end. During a 1994 game against New Mexico, the saddle on a horse named Double T broke, causing him to toss his rider and stampede across the field. In his panic, the horse ran headfirst into an exit tunnel and broke his neck instantly. Instead of condolences, Texas Tech's rival University of Oklahoma sent the school a bottle of glue, labeled with the horse's name. Double T's death wasn't the first time there's been an incident with a horse on the Texas Tech field: an SMU cheerleader was reportedly trampled on the field.
3. Texas A&M;'s Collies
Texas A&M; has had a collie as one of their mascots since the 1930s. During the reign of Reveille VI, from 1993 to 2001, the dog disappeared in what has been called a "prank dognapping," assumed to be the work of students from rival University of Texas. Reveille VI was recovered, but died two years later at age 10.
4. Southern University's Jaguars
Southern University's jaguar mascot (similar to the one in the photo above), Lacumba II, was found dead in a cramped cage - reportedly from natural causes. After being trotted out onto the field for games, Lacumba was shuffled back into a small cage (418 square feet), which is where she spent most of her days. After her death, student groups and animal rights advocates put pressure on Southern University to cancel plans to build a new habitat - they put those plans on hold in 2010.
5. Baylor University's Bears
Baylor University has been using of two black bears, Joy and Lady, to entertain fans for more than a decade. Joy and Lady weigh in at a whopping 280 and 270 pounds, respectively, and live in a 3,000-square-foot enclosure. But PETA has criticized the school, saying that they were worried the bears were pacing and "self-mutilating," possibly in reaction to a stressful environment. For comparison, the average American home is somewhere around 2,600 square feet. That's only 400 more feet for these two ladies to live in than most families have, though they're each twice the size of the average person.
6. University of Louisiana's Siberian Tiger
Mike the tiger has played an integral part in LSU's football celebrations since the 1970s. But the traditions surrounding Mike - and there have been a few Mikes over the years - have been decried by many as cruelty. While Mike does live in a 15,000-square-foot habitat, he's been put into a cage - with the school's cheerleaders on top - before games so that he can make his grand entrance onto the field before taking up residence outside the opposing team's locker room. However, Mike hasn't felt up to attending the games this year, much to the fans' dismay. To the credit of Mike's vet, the tiger hasn't been forced into his trailer - causing angry fans to suggest using a cattle prod-like device on the big cat to get him to move. In the old days, Mike used to travel with the team as well, but after his cage fell into highway traffic on the way to a game in 1970, he's only traveled for big games, such as the Sugar Bowl. Fans used to be encouraged to bang on his cage to make him roar, although that tradition was finally stopped after causing an uproar from activists.