Big horns to fill: Texas’ Hook ’Em mascot brings fun, spirit and stellar dance moves

Posted October 26th, 2017

Story highlights
  • Hook ’Em was created in the late 1970s as a way to increase fan interaction
  • In addition to being the embodiment of school spirit, Hook ’Em can be a rock during times of tragedy
  • Last year the busy bull logged more than 250 appearances

He’s starred in a music video with Brad Paisley, shared the stage with Major Lazer at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and repeatedly gone viral thanks to his slick dance moves.

But even though he’s one of Austin’s most recognized celebrities, many people still can’t get his name right.

“His name is Hook ’Em, not Bevo. They’re two distinct characters,” said Charles W. Branch, Texas Athletics senior marketing coordinator for fan engagement and Hook ’Em’s coach. “We’re so fortunate at the University of Texas that we have two iconic mascots. We have the rich history tradition of Bevo, and we have Hook ’Em, who is able to do things that Bevo cannot do.”

A vintage photo of University of Texas mascot Hook ‘Em, who joined the university in the late 1970s. (The University of Texas)

Hook ’Em was created in the late 1970s to offer another mascot experience in addition to Bevo, who, as a real, live longhorn, is limited in terms of fan interaction. In the early days, Hook ’Em wore a sweatsuit, gloves and a longhorn headpiece. Since then, particularly in the past three or four years, he’s received a significant personal and branding makeover that has transformed him into one of the cuddliest — and most recognizable — mascots in the country.

He’s also a busy bull — last year he logged more than 250 appearances. He’s at every home and away UT football game, home volleyball, basketball and soccer games, select baseball and softball games and other sporting events, too. (He was recently spotted on the water with the rowing team.) Hook ’Em also travels for special events and to shoot national campaigns for Texas Athletics sponsors including AT&T, Quicken Loans and Nissan. He’s also frequently spotted at local festivals such as the Pride Parade and can be hired for birthday parties and weddings.

In addition to being the embodiment of school spirit, Hook ’Em is also sometimes a rock during times of tragedy, such as when a student was fatally stabbed on campus last spring.

“The team came together and we wanted to do something positive for the campus community, so Hook ’Em went out to do free hugs one day,” Branch said. “I saw tears coming down from people. That’s what people needed.”

Although university representatives have disclosed the names of Hook ’Em’s human counterparts in the past, in recent years they have declined to do so, preferring to keep the students inside the suit anonymous and focus on the character of Hook ’Em instead.

PHOTOS: Hook’Em through the years

On Oct. 18, Hook ’Em held court — literally — during the Texas Tip-Off basketball scrimmage at Gregory Gym, posing for photos, doing one-armed pushups and, of course, showing off those signature dance moves. Everywhere he went, fans followed.

“He’s totally like a celebrity, absolutely,” said Rob Mallin, a third-year UT grad student in integrated media design, after taking a photo with Hook ’Em and receiving a fist bump.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of parents who try to hand Hook ’Em their baby,” Branch said. “One of the most incredible things about Hook ’Em, especially over the last three years, is how popular he has become among the UT student body and among our fan base in general. We went out to ACL, and just the hysteria of people who see Hook ’Em and flock to him — we’re talking 18- to 22-year-olds and older — they want nothing more than to film their own video or get their photo with Hook ’Em.”

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When it was Hook ’Em’s turn to take center court at Texas Tip-Off, he entertained the crowd with an electric mashup of songs including Gloria Estefan’s “Conga,” Soulja Boy Tell’em’s “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” and Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” and exited to raucous applause.

“Hook ’Em has the moves,” admitted Texas pom captain Sara Arnold. “He’s quite talented with his dancing abilities. In my four years we’ve done a couple of performances with him at games, especially during halftime, and that’s always so fun. It’s always a treat to work with him.”

Plus, she added, “He is a gentleman.”

Reagan Morris, 4, holds onto Hook ‘Em on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, inside the Gregory Gym. Morris and the mascot were practicing cartwheels and doing the splits. (Ana Ramirez/American-Statesman)

Here are 10 things you might not know about Texas Longhorns mascot Hook ’Em:

1. He’s an Aquarius. His birthday is Feb. 2.

2. He has two brothers. You already know his big brother, Bevo. But he also has a little brother, Airhorn, a 9-foot-tall inflatable longhorn who also sometimes attends sporting events. Airhorn and Hook ’Em are in the midst of an ongoing dance battle; they are tied.

3. He lives at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. When he has downtime, he roams the Forty Acres.

4. He can’t talk, but he can write. Hook ’Em will gladly sign an autograph for you.

5. Yes, he does get hot. Hook ’Em’s fur can make it feel about 25 degrees hotter than the actual outside temperature. He doesn’t use ice packs, fans or anything else to keep cool — he just sweats it out.

6. People constantly mess up his name. He’s been called Mr. Rhino, Mr. Ghost, Moose Man, Cow Man … and Bevo, of course.

7. To be Hook ’Em, you have to be in good shape. Hook ’Em works out. A lot. He’s in charge of leading the football players out of the tunnel at home football games, so he has to be fast to avoid getting run over.

8. His favorite food is grass. Obviously. And he doesn’t like it when campus-area restaurants name burgers after him. It’s awkward.

9. He’s gone viral. A student-shot video of Hook ’Em dancing to the song “JuJu on That Beat” on the steps of Gregory Gym gained national attention last fall and was picked up everywhere from the Bleacher Report to the NBC Sports Facebook page, where it has received 7.2 million views.

10. There’s a national competition for mascots, and Hook ’Em wants to win it. Last time, he placed fourth in the UCA College Mascot Championship, held each January. This year, he’s gunning for No. 1.