A 19-month-old steer with a dynamic muscular frame, Bevo XV is the equivalent of a five-star recruit
Posted September 4th, 2016
On Jan. 24, 2015, a calf was born.
Betty and John T. Baker have seen hundreds of calves at their Sunrise Ranch in Liberty Hill. There wasn’t anything particular about this one, outside of his orange head and colored splotches.
John T. Baker, who likes to use alliteration when naming calves, named the little guy “Sunrise Spur.”
Baker put his custom “SS” brand on the calf’s right hip. On the left, he branded what he calls his “private herd number,” something like a Social Security number for cattle.
[brightcove_video video_id=”5112379127001″ caption=”Jake Horowitz with the Silver Spurs gives a rundown of what it takes to be a handler for Bevo XV during the Longhorns’ game against Notre Dame on Sunday, September 4, 2016.”]
The first digit indicates the sequential number of calves branded each year. Being the first calf branded in January, Spur’s first digit is 1. The second number is the final digit of the given year. In his case, the number 5.
Baker branded “15” on Spur’s left hip and didn’t think twice. “It was just a calf,” he said.
Not anymore. On Sunday, before the Texas-Notre Dame season opener, the University of Texas unveiled 1,100-pound Sunrise Spur to a sold-out crowd at Royal-Memorial Stadium with a new name — Bevo XV.
Simply a natural
News rocked the UT fan base last October when Bevo XIV fell ill and missed the Red River Showdown against Oklahoma. Stricken with bovine leukemia, Sunrise Studly, a National Grand Champion show steer, died on Oct. 16.
Ricky Brennes, Bevo’s day-to-day handler, thought the Silver Spurs might be able to find a new Bevo for the Thanksgiving matchup against Texas Tech. More than a hundred photos of longhorns poured in from all over the country.
“As we got a little deeper into it, we started to look at it and think, ‘You know, we need to get this right,’” Brennes said.
A small search committee was formed, and interested parties fanned out to search for … well, they weren’t exactly sure. Should the new Bevo be an older steer, one with well-established horns? Should it be bigger? Thinner? More orange? More white?
The steer had to be halter broken, and Brennes said they preferred one that had already been in competitive shows.
As the owner of Bevo XIII and XIV, Baker had his little calf, Sunrise Spur. Yet, he wasn’t getting much attention and wasn’t in Bevo consideration. Not initially, anyway.
Practically on a whim, Baker entered Spur in the 2015 Holiday Extravaganza in Decatur against 25 other steers that were approximately the same age. Spur emerged as the Junior Champion.
Then in March, Spur was entered at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Now more than a year old, Spur was growing and changing. Again, he was named Junior Champion but got beaten out as Grand Champion by a 3-year-old from the senior division.
“I remember him,” Houston show judge John Oliver said. “His color pattern, kind of unique. Just a real pretty type of animal with a lot of eye appeal.”
Then came the Spring Show in Glen Rose. Spur was named Junior Champion in back-to-back shows but again lost the Grand Champion title to a 3-year-old. Still, being named Reserve Grand Champion left no doubt. Spur, an exceptionally muscular animal, was the football equivalent of a five-star recruit.
“Well, this one right here keeps winning,” Brennes said. “I’m not sure why we’re continuing to look. In the end, this decision was pretty easy.”
Growing into his horns
At the Longhorn Expo in June, Spur finished third at the Youth World Show in Fort Worth. Judging is subjective, though. Many people look at the length of the horns. Spur’s aren’t the biggest, measuring only 42 inches tip to tip. Bevo XIV’s horns were 82 inches, though that steer also was 13 years old.
Bevo XV is only 19 months old.
“In the longhorn breed, people who want immediate gratification, that’s what they pay for,” said show judge Stan Comer, who judged Spur in Fort Worth. “However, what happens is you give up structure, balance and muscle just to go after horn. I would rather do it the other way around. A good base, good body, good build to put it on and let the horns grow into it.”
Bevo XIV was a huge steer, standing 6-foot-3 from head to ground. He was built like a defensive end, Baker said. Bevo XV is more like a sturdy linebacker.
“So maybe he’s like the football team,” Baker said. “Maybe you’ve got a fairly young core group that we hope develops into a dynamic machine. That goes for whether we’re talking about the football team or the steer.”
Eye appeal is a huge part of Bevo’s mystique. “It’s part of the Texas culture,” UT President Gregory L. Fenves said. “Fans are going to fall in love with Bevo XV.”
Training a new Bevo requires extensive time. The Silver Spurs, the fraternal group that serves as the student handlers of Bevo, have made numerous trips to Sunrise Ranch to work with Spur, Baker said. They’ve fired shotgun blasts and air horns to test his responsiveness. “He really didn’t even blink,” Brennes said.
Raising scholarship money
Finding the picture-perfect Bevo was critical this year. It’s the 100th anniversary of the original Bevo making his sideline debut in a game against Texas A&M in 1916. Texas’ mascot has grown into a larger-than-life symbol.
The Silver Spurs want Bevo to become the most recognized and most charitable mascot in America. Bevo is the face of the Neighborhood Longhorns, a scholarship program that focuses on encouraging grade-school students to stay in school.
The Neighborhood Longhorns program has given away more than $600,000 in scholarship money since 1991. If any local student ends up going to UT, the school doubles the money.
“We do all kinds of things to bring kids to the campus so they see that college is not out of reach,” said Howard Nirken, a member of the executive board.
In a typical year, Bevo makes 40 to 50 event appearances. “He’s been to weddings, funerals, birthdays, golf tournaments and other fundraising events,” Baker said.
It’s hoped that Sunrise Spur will grow over time and become just as successful as his two predecessors, both of whom were owned by Baker. An Eagle Scout and former Navy pilot, Baker has become one of the most well-known members of the Texas Longhorns Breeders Association of America. He served as the group’s 13th president.
As the owners of three straight Bevos, you could say the Bakers are on a roll. “The only common denominator they have is they grew up in the same pasture,” Baker said.
Bevo XIII and Bevo XIV both presided over more than 100 UT victories during their runs. If Bevo XV can match that, this longhorn and the Longhorns will work out just fine.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.
QUICK FACTS ON BEVO XV
Name: Sunrise Spur
Date of birth: Jan. 24, 2015
Parents: Anchor T Anchor Man (sire) and Sunrise 874 (dam). Spur has no bloodline relations to any previous Bevo steer.
Owners: Betty and John T. Baker, owners of Sunrise Ranch in Liberty Hill
Weight: Approximately 1,100 pounds
Horns: Currently measure 42 inches tip to tip. Bevo XIV’s horns measured 82 inches.
Color: Orange head with orange and white splotches on his body. “This guy, I’d imagine if you took some paint and held up the perfect color, whatever that is, you might find that pattern on this steer,” John T. Baker said.
How do you train a new Bevo?: Contrary to urban myth, Bevo is never drugged. Longhorns are docile animals by nature. As a show steer, Spur is used to traveling by trailer and standing in front of crowds.
“You need to be calm, cool and collected,” Baker said. “We don’t use any bull whips or anything crazy. My hand is my best tool.”
Spur has seen fireworks, sparklers and flashes of light. Bevo’s handlers have fired shotguns to test Spur’s reaction. The hope is that nothing spooks Bevo, but Sunday’s Notre Dame was a first for everyone involved — including the steer. “I can tell you the handlers from the Silver Spurs, they’ve been out here several, several, several times,” Baker said.
— Brian Davis