Explore your world
Texas Longhorns football © Randall Chancellor
Texas Longhorns football © Randall Chancellor

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Texas Longhorns

Picture of Sarah Karney
Updated: 1 April 2017

Home to more than 51,000 students and 3,000 teaching faculty, The University of Texas is a leader in research and academic programs amongst large public universities. Since its opening in September 1883, UT has produced over 482,000 alumni, or Texas Exes, and has gained worldwide recognition for its academics, sports, and rich traditions. Here are 10 things you may not have known about the Texas Longhorns.

The origin of Bevo

It is a common misconception that Bevo, the school’s mascot, got his name after a group of Texas Aggies branded the Longhorn mascot with “13-0,” the score of a football game won by A&M, and UT turned it into the name “Bevo” to avoid embarrassment. This story is actually a myth; the name Bevo was given to the mascot by the editor of the Alcalde newspaper, Ben Dyer, in a December 1916 issue. He wrote: “His name is Bevo. Long may he reign!” Bevo is shortened from the word “beeve,” which is both the plural form of “beef” and slang for a cow that is about to become food.

The legend of the albino squirrels

A popular legend amongst students on campus is that if you see one of the albino squirrels on the way to an exam, you will have good luck and make an A. While the squirrels may appear to be albino, they are actually white fox squirrels. You can tell the difference because albino squirrels have red eyes while white squirrels have brown eyes.

The origin of burnt orange and white

In 1855, two Texas fans were on their way to a baseball game when they stopped at a store looking for matching ribbons for the crowd. The shopkeeper ended up selling them orange and white ribbons because that’s what he had the most of in stock. It wasn’t until 1928 that burnt orange became the official color, thanks to football coach Littlefield who wanted uniforms that wouldn’t fade.

The origin of “hook ‘em horns”

“Hook ‘em horns” is both a slogan and hand signal that the Longhorns use as a greeting or parting goodbye. It was first introduced in 1955 by head cheerleader Harley Clark, Jr. at a pep rally and later named the top college hand signal by Sports Illustrated. Although it is a simple gesture of school spirit for the Longhorns, it has quite the opposite meaning in other cultures, like in Russia where it is a derogatory symbol.

The former mascot: Pig Bellmont

Before Bevo became the Longhorns’ mascot, UT’s original mascot was a little tan and white dog named Pig Bellmont. Pig was named after the center of the football team during that time, Gus “Pig” Dittmar. Pig was known to visit classrooms, hang out in the library on cold days, and attend both home and away athletic events. The dog was also known to snarl at the mention of Texas A&M, UT’s biggest rival at the time.

The UT Tower

Also known as The Main Building, the Tower stands 307 feet tall (94 meters) and has become an iconic landmark of both the university and Austin. Originally built as a library, the Tower is technically four feet (1.2 meters) shorter than the Texas State Capitol building, but because it sits at a higher elevation, it has a two-foot (0.6-meter) advantage. The tower was first lit during the 1937 football season.

Famous alumni

The University of Texas has produced some very well-known alumni ranging from famous athletes to actors to politicians. Some of these Texas Exes include actor Matthew McConaughey; Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon; and Angus G. Wynne, the founder of Six Flags Over Texas.

Sports powerhouse

The University of Texas, a member of the Big 12 Conference, has a remarkable track record in their athletics department, especially in the fields of football and baseball. During the 2015 football season, the Longhorns were ranked third in total wins, and they have won four national championships. Regarding baseball, the Longhorns have made more trips to the College World Series than any other school and have won six national championships.

Museums and libraries

The university’s libraries and museums are amongst the best in the world. The libraries alone hold about nine million volumes, making it the 7th largest academic library in the world. Included in the vast collection are the first permanent photograph, View from the Window at Le Gras by Nicéphore Niépce, and one of 21 remaining copies of the Gutenberg Bible.

Big Bertha

The Big Bertha drum, built in 1922, measures eight feet (2.4 meters) in diameter and weighs more than 500 pounds (227 kilograms). The drum was originally part of the University of Chicago’s band before the Longhorns purchased it for $1 in 1955 and transported it from Illinois to Austin. Big Bertha is known as the “sweetheart of the Longhorn band” and even has her own escort crew known as the “Bertha Crew.”