By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Communications Intern
In honor of March Madness consuming the minds and time of sports fans across the country, we wanted to highlight some of our favorite NCAA mascots that have a flair for forests!
The Stanford Cardinal
A deceiving name, Stanford University’s mascot isn’t actually a cardinal — it’s a tree! Well, the Stanford Tree is not the University’s official mascot (it doesn’t have an official one), but it is the mascot for the Stanford Band. The tree costume is redesigned each year and has been called one of America’s most bizarre mascots.
It is named after El Palo Alto, which is a landmark redwood and California Historical Landmark No. 2. It is currently 110 feet in height and was determined to be 1,015 years old in 1955.
The Cal Golden Bears
The California Golden Bear has been a symbol for the State of California since the raising of the first bear flag in 1846, during what was known as the “Bear Flag Revolt.” When the University of California – Berkley Track and Field team travelled to the east coast for a meet they brought a blue banner with a large golden bear and ended up winning. They then decided their mascot would become the “Golden bear.”
Their official mascot now is Oski the bear, named after the “Oski Yell,” which was recited at almost every football and basketball game in the early 1900s.
Unfortunately, the California grizzly bear, which was designated the official state animal of California in 1953, had actually gone extinct due to overhunting 30 years prior. Today, only about 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48 states of the U.S.
The Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State University’s official mascot is named Brutus Buckeye, whose head is meant to resemble an Ohio Buckeye nut. Brutus made his first appearance in 1965 after students convinced their athletic council that they needed a mascot. The buckeye was selected as the mascot because of its status of the official state tree of Ohio.
The Ohio buckeye is a slow-growing, round-headed tree that grows up to 50 feet high. Large, showy, upright flower clusters appear in early June. The flowers are creamy yellow and lack fragrance. Fruits become conspicuous on the tree in late summer and fall. Their husks have thick, knobby spines. Usually a single, rounded, shiny brown seed is produced in each fruit.
Oregon State Beavers
Benny Beaver is the official mascot of Oregon State University. In 1916 the school yearbook was named “The Beaver” and the name of the animal became associated with the school. The beaver mascot’s name, “Benny,” was officially adopted in 1945.
The university had two failed attempts to maintain a live beaver mascot, including Bevo Beaver, which was rescued from Mary’s River in 1921, and later stolen, and Billy Beaver who was made mascot in 1935, and later fell ill and died.
Beavers are primarily nocturnal, large, semiaquatic rodents — known for their natural trait of building dams on rivers and streams. They build their homes in the resulting pond. They use their powerful front teeth to cut trees and plants that they use for building and for food.University of Arizona Wildcats (and Kentucky, Weber State and Villanova)
Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat are the official mascots of the University of Arizona. The school’s first mascot, “Rufus Arizona” was a live desert bobcat named after the U-of-A president Rufus von KleinSmid. The practice of using live mascots was discontinued in the 1960s, but Rufus came on the scene in 1959. Wilma joined him in 1986, and they were “married.”
Other NCAA basketball teams that also have wildcats as their mascot include the University of Kentucky, Weber State University and Villanova University.
There are three recognized North American wildcats — the Cougar (or Mountain Lion or Puma), which ranges from the Yukon down the western part of the continent to the tip of South America. The Bobcat, which roams throughout much of North America and adapts well to such diverse habitats as forests, swamps, deserts and even suburban areas. In southern Texas there exists a small population of Ocelots.
Temple University Owls
Stella, Temple University’s live mascot, is a great horned owl and was brought to the school in 2013. According to Temple’s website, “during home games, Stella can be found cheering on the sidelines of Lincoln Financial Field alongside Temple’s official mascot, Hooter.”
The owl has been the symbol and mascot for Temple University since its founding in the 1880s. Temple was actually the first school in the United States to adopt the owl as its symbol or mascot. The owl, a nocturnal hunter, was initially adopted as a symbol because Temple University began as a night school for young people of limited means. Russel Conwell, Temple University’s founder, encouraged his students with the remark: “The owl of the night makes the eagle of the day.”
Owls live in a variety of habitats, including coniferous forests, mountains, deserts and plains. The snowy owl lives in the cold tundra of the north. They hunt mostly small mammals, insects and other birds. They are found in all regions of the Earth except Antarctica and some remote islands.
Have another favorite? Share it with us in the comments! Plus, learn all about our OWN March Madness tournament, Big Tree Madness.