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How an Austin-area family became the owners of UT mascot Bevo

John and Betty Baker have raised championship cattle for decades. A chance meeting in 1988 led them to own arguably the most popular steer in Texas: the University of Texas Longhorns mascot.

AUSTIN — Strength, power, pride.

He's been named the most revered mascot in college sports. Bevo made his first appearance at University of Texas in 1916 at the annual Thanksgiving rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies.

Since then, 15 steers have represented UT.

Longhorns' roots run deep in Texas -- especially in Williamson County, John and Betty Baker have raised championship cattle for decades.

“It's been 30 years I guess since we started this,” said the Bakers.

RELATED: Even after his death, Longhorns mascot Bevo XIV could save lives, UT Austin researchers say

Betty Baker, a UT grad and former twirler, never imagined their love of longhorns would one day turn her into a mascot mom.

“Isn't this just the weirdest thing that we are so into this now with Bevos? It's been so good, so wonderful,” said Betty Baker.

A chance meeting begins a Longhorns mascot legacy for a Texas family

The Baker's longhorn legacy started by chance. In 1988 while showing their steer, the Baker's bovines captured the attention of the UT steering committee.

“In August they came back and said we really like him and they said, 'Can we use him as Bevo?' and we said, 'Sure.' That's how it started,” said John Baker.

PHOTOS: Bevo, the making of a Longhorns mascot

Being parents of the most famous Longhorn in the land has its perks and its worries. Like so many proud parents, the Bakers don't miss a game.

“It's like having a kid down there and the first time they're playing a game down there you have your eyes on them -- your binoculars on them. That's what I did at first. ‘Oh please behave. Don't embarrass me,'” said Betty Baker.

Are medications used to keep Longhorns mascot Bevo calm?

Lessons begin early on the Bakers' 250 acre ranch. From babies to bulls, the Bakers teach their cattle to be comfortable around people and noises.

“There's never been one cc or one ml of medication given to any Sunrise Steers since 1988,” said John Baker.

The Bakers have owned all of the Longhorn mascots since 1988.

“We have trained this little guy. We’ve shot guns around him -- popped balloons around him,” said Betty.

“You don't want to get one that's already got a mindset," Betty Baker said. "It's kind of like a teenager. If you started with a teenager and started disciplining a teenager instead of working at it while they're young, it's kind of the same theory here."

The Silver Spurs, a UT organization that helps handle Bevo

From national championship games to weddings to inaugurations, Bevo gets invited to dozens of events every year. The Bakers travel the nation with help from a group of handlers called the Silver Spurs, UT students they help train.

“They have their own trailer and truck and they come and get him,” said Betty Baker. “And they bring him back.”

You'll see those students holding the reigns on game days.

“Once you get the halter on him he seems like he's a puppy dog,” she said.

“It's the way they've been treated and the way they've been trained,” said John Baker.

More than a mascot

Bevo is a vision of strength that represents so much more than even the Bakers realized until three years ago when Bevo XIV got sick.

“I just knew when he didn't come to me that something was really wrong,” said Betty Baker.

Bevo XIV always ran to Betty when she brought food out on the ranch.

The Bakers took Bevo XIV to Texas A&M where veterinarians diagnosed him with Bovine Leukemia. He died weeks after the diagnosis in the middle of football season.

“All of a sudden John went out there one morning and he was dead,” recalled Betty Baker.

Not only did the university mourn the loss of Bevo XIV, the nation did. It was the first time Bevo didn’t appear at a Red River Rivalry game between UT and Oklahoma University. Calls and cards poured in.

“These are all the calls and the cards,” she said. “We had letters from all over the united states and cards and flowers.”

It would be months before the university would search for a replacement.

Bevo XV takes the reigns after Bevo XIV's death

Bevo XV took the reigns as a baby. He is now the Bakers' third mascot.

“This one I call 'Punkin’.' He and I have a special bond and I thought that would never happen," said Betty Baker.

He's another champion steer and the youngest mascot in UT history.

“We started taking him to shows and every single time he would win. He won out of fifty something animals. He went up against 2- and 3-year-olds and he won the entire thing out. Grand champion. It was phenomenal,” said Betty Baker.

Bevo XIV is growing up before our eyes. His horns have grown 16 inches in the last two football seasons.

“Every year I get the same question, ‘How long are his horns going to get?’ I have no idea,” she said. “He’s 3-years-old so he’s got a little ways to go.”

Bevo, long may he reign

Bevo has long been a symbol of strength, power and pride. That is the rich history of longhorns surviving stampedes, Indian raids, weather and near extinction.

“They're very strong in many ways and that represents the university. Sort of a symbol of it all,” she said.

Bevo XV is a longhorn legend in the making. Long may he reign.

The Bakers also host a camp for kids each summer to teach them how to care for Longhorns and how to show cattle. They said giving back to future generations of ranchers is among the most fulfilling part of their jobs.

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