In hindsight, Bryant McKenzie says, it makes sense. For months, Bevo XIV had stopped eating as much. McKenzie and the longhorn’s other handlers thought Bevo XIV was trying to outsmart them.
“We assumed it was because he knew we were trying to halter (rope) him,” said McKenzie, an advertising senior and Silver Spurs member. “[And he] thought we were trying to trick him.”
In Fort Worth on Oct. 2, though, McKenzie realized more was wrong. Bevo XIV laid down more than usual. His hips looked different, and he did a “weird thing stretching and sucking.” The steer was soon diagnosed with bovine leukemia virus. He retired on Tuesday and died on Friday.
Ricky Brennes, Silver Spurs executive director and Bevo XIV’s regular traveling partner, said the 13-year-old steer 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.”
Bevo leaves behind his longhorn best friend, Spike, and owners John T. and Betty Baker. He died at 13 after 11 years of service to the University. Betty Baker called him “baby” because he assumed the role so young. In fact, whenever she yelled “Bevo, baby” in a high-pitched voice, the steer recognized the call and came running.
McKenzie said the Bakers’ close relationship with Bevo XIV made the passing that much more difficult.
“It felt like my dog had been diagnosed with a terminal illness,” McKenzie said. “My second thoughts were about Mr. and Mrs. Baker, since [Bevo]’s like their child.”
Bevo XIV manned sidelines for a host of events in his 11-year tenure. He cheered the Longhorns to victory in the 2006 National Championship game, attended President George W. Bush’s second presidential inauguration and spent time with actor Matthew McConaughey. Bevo XIV’s last official function was the Horns’ 50-7 loss to No. 4 TCU. He was too sick to travel to Dallas for Texas’ 24-17 Red River Rivalry upset.
Before his diagnosis, Bevo XIV attended all home games and gave Friday night pre-game appearances at the UT Golf Club. He also attended private functions, generating more than $250,000 to support
underprivileged students in Austin through the Neighborhood Longhorn Program. Summer schedules were lighter to protect Bevo’s health.
“[Brennes] tries not to do summer events because it’s so hot for us and for [Bevo],” McKenzie said. “He sits directly in the sun and gets dehydrated.”
Caring for a dehydrated longhorn, like any state of a longhorn, is no small task. McKenzie said the handlers gave Bevo XIV water from a roughly 30-gallon bucket to properly hydrate him. He ate 60 pounds of hay and feed daily.
Bevo XIV was 82 inches long from one horn tip to the other and roughly 2,100 pounds. He succeeded Bevo XIII, originally named Sunrise Express, who died in 2006 after 16 years of service — still a program record. Texas beat Oklahoma immediately preceding Bevo XIII’s death as well.
Zach Mafrige, another Silver Spur and handler, said Bevo XIV warmed to the handlers as they spent more time together. By October, Bevo XIV let his handlers pet him, brush him and touch him. But they “never grew the relationship we wanted to” in their shortened job stint.
Even so, McKenzie says they have fond memories of preparing the longhorn for appearances. The most memorable: when McKenzie took too long to halter Bevo XIV to travel to an event. The usually calm Bevo XIV swung at McKenzie and caught him in the ribs.
“It sucked at the time,” McKenzie said. “But that’s something you can tell your grandkids.”
The Silver Spurs Alumni Association will oversee the search for Bevo XV. They hope to find a steer before the 2016 football season, which will mark 100 years of Bevos.