Florida Gators fans cheer Albert the Alligator. At the University of Texas, the crowd roars at the sight of Bevo the Longhorn steer. Alabama Crimson Tide supporters trumpet their approval of Big Al the Elephant.
American colleges began to adopt mascots in the 1800s.
In the mid-1850s, people in Minnesota couldn’t decide if a gopher or a beaver was the better state mascot. A newspaper cartoon poked fun at the gopher.
Strangely enough, people liked the toon so much that Minnesota became known as the Gopher State in 1857. Goldy Gopher is now the University of Minnesota’s mascot.
Although no one has ever spotted a wolverine in the wild in Michigan, people in that state began calling themselves the Wolverines in 1861.
The Georgia Bulldog made his first appearance around 1894. Georgia fans now bark their approval of Hairy Dawg.
Other schools followed suit. The result was a crazy collection of mixed-up beasts and weird birds, bugs, heroes, horses, buffalo, lions, tigers and bears.
Here are some of the more unusual mascots in college sports:
Zippy the Kangaroo
University of Akron (Ohio)
Akron’s sports teams were dubbed the “Zippers” in 1925 after a rubber overshoe produced by the nearby B.F. Goodrich Company. The name was later shortened to “Zips.” In 1953 Zippy hopped on the Akron sports bandwagon after students picked the plucky kangaroo as the school’s official mascot.
Sammy the Banana Slug
University of California – Santa Cruz
Sammy, the merry mollusk mascot of UCSC, is a slimy, shell-less yellow blob. The slow-moving, easy-going, non-combative banana slug was voted the school’s mascot as a protest against fiercely contested sports.
Peter the Anteater
University of California – Irvine
UCI was brand new in 1965. Only one thing bugged students about their school: It had no mascot. The student body decided on a unique mascot, an anteater.
Pete & Penny Penguin
Youngstown State (Ohio)
Freezing fans in an icy gym watching a Youngstown basketball game in 1933 said the players flapped their stiff arms and stomped around like … penguins. The name stuck.
Wichita State (Kansas)
The shocking truth is a football manager came up with the nickname “Wheat Shockers” in 1904. Before modern harvest machinery, Wichita State students earned extra money by threshing — or “shocking” — wheat in nearby farmers’ fields. WUShock, the grainy-headed mascot, made his first appearance in 1948.
Canisius College (New York)
What do you get if you combine an eagle and a lion? A powerful flying creature of mythology known as a “Griffin.” Add a splash of gold paint and you have the mascot of Canisius College. Sports squads at Canisius have been called the Golden Griffins since the 1930s.
Artie the Artichoke
Scottsdale Community College (Arizona)
In 1970 students voted for an artichoke mascot as a protest to the college’s proposal to divert funds from academic courses to pay for athletic teams.
Gus the Gorilla
Pittsburg State (Kansas)
The lack of school spirit drove some students at Pittsburg State wild in 1920. They organized a spirit club known as “The Gorillas” and beat their chests at college sporting events. Gus the Gorilla became the official team mascot in 1925.