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“Pig’s Dead … Dog gone”: UT Austin students lead effort to pay tribute to first varsity mascotUT Austin students lead effort to pay tribute to first varsity mascot

Before there was a Bevo, there was a dog named Pig.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Before there was a Bevo, there was a dog named Pig.

The pugnacious tan and white Pit Bull mix (1914-1923) had the run of The University of Texas at Austin campus — from Old Main to the steps of the University Co-op where he slept at night. The varsity mascot went to classes with students, attended home and out-of-town athletic events (it was said he would snarl at the slightest mention of Texas AandM University) and participated in morning "fall outs" with military aeronautics cadets during World War I.

When Pig died in 1923 after being hit by a Model T at the corner of 24th and Guadalupe streets, his body lay in state in front of the Co-Op. Hundreds of mourners tipped their hats and filed by Pig’s casket, which was draped with orange and white ribbon. The Longhorn Band later led a funeral procession to a spot under a small grove of live oak trees near the old law building where he was buried. A new student group called the Texas Cowboys acted as pallbearers and a lone trumpeter played taps in front of the Old Main Building.

After the funeral, a marker was left to remind the students of their first mascot. His epitaph: "Pig’s Dead … Dog Gone."

Seventy-eight years later, a UT Austin student is leading an effort to memorialize Pig all over again. A ceremony will be held April 30 at noon in Batts Hall auditorium (Room 7 on the ground floor). Photographic displays of Pig will be featured and a recreation of the tombstone/epitaph/sign is being made. UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner will read from the original eulogy given by Dr. Thomas U. Taylor, dean and founder of the College of Engineering. In the eulogy, Pig was praised for his loyalty to the University and compared to the faithful dog of Lord Byron.

Participants will then walk over to the "Pig Bellmont Tree" located between the Graduate School of Business and Mezes Hall, for the unveiling of the sign.

"I had an idea for this memorial service when I realized how few people on campus actually knew about Pig," said Kevin Miller, a UT Austin radio-television-film and Plan II Honors Program senior. "I thought to myself, what if Bevo were to die and have a funeral, and 75 years from now no one remembered him?

"I decided to tackle this idea out of respect for the UT students at the time, in the hopes that this time, Pig will remain a part of the University’s collective memory."

Miller said he is definitely a dog person, although he imagines he would have worked to get a new memorial service "if Pig had been a three-legged armadillo. If you look at the photographs, Pig was a pretty ugly mongrel, but the campus loved him just the same.

"That was one of the neatest parts about the idea, that an entire University community could rally around a flea-bitten rascal like Pig. I grew up in a small Texas town with my dog, Rufus, who also was an ugly mongrel."

Miller has been working with fellow student, Kris Blahnik, and Jim Nicar, a staff member from the Ex-Students’ Association.

Nicar conducts the "Moonlight Prowl" tours of campus and also is publishing an essay book on the history of UT Austin. He said Bevo was introduced in 1916 but wasn’t all that popular and didn’t stay around too long. "He was taken out of town the same year and didn’t return to campus until 1920," said Nicar. "This first Bevo was the main course at the football banquet that year. The second Bevo didn’t arrive until 1932, 12 years later."

The students — and there were only about 2,500 at this time — didn’t really latch on to Bevo in the beginning, Nicar said. "After all, you could pet Pig. And, the dog was chosen as a mascot by students themselves, whereas Bevo was brought to campus by alumni."

Of Miller’s and Blahnik’s interest in reviving the story, Nicar said he believes students of all generations want to have a heritage when they arrive on campus. "They want to connect to the University’s past. They want to be a part of something."

Pig was only seven weeks old when he was brought to Austin by L. Theo Bellmont, a co-founder of the Southwest Athletic Conference and the University’s first athletic director. The dog was named for Gus "Pig" Dittmar, who played center for the Longhorn football team. Dittmar was known to slip through the defensive line like "a greased pig," said Nicar. "During a game in 1914, the athlete and the dog stood next to each other on the sidelines and students noticed that both were bowlegged. It was not long before the dog had found a namesake."

Blahnik, a corporate communication senior, said he spent three years as an orientation advisor and had always told the story of Pig to his students. "Making students aware of the University around them has always been a little pastime for me, and this (the memorial effort) is a great capstone to my experience here.

"I think many students now are aware of the fact Bevo wasn’t the first representative of UT, because we hype it so much in orientation, but Pig isn’t in our everyday University vocabulary. This is a story about celebrating history and tradition, and I’m proud to be part of it."

Note to Editors: A studio portrait of Pig and photographs of his 1923 funeral procession — including an image of the casket being carried down Guadalupe Street by the Texas Cowboys and another of his burial site with the tombstone sign, "Pig’s Dead … Dog Gone," can be obtained by going to the following web site: www.utexas.edu/admin/opa/news/01newsreleases/nr_200104/pig2.html