When students of other California colleges make jokes about UC Davis, they always go for the low-hanging fruit: Davis is a cow town.
But unlike Sacramento, which leverages its rural roots mainly to market an image of farm-to-fork chic, we Aggies embrace the association. We ring cowbells at sports games and pose with dairy cattle on Instagram.
To be a UC Davis Aggie is to accept our quirks. And it’s past time for the university administration to hop on the bandwagon with students and alumni embracing the cow as our mascot.
At dinner recently with a fellow UC Davis alum, I asked: “You’ve heard about the effort to replace Gunrock with a cow, right?” She hadn’t — and I’ve never seen a person more enthusiastic about a potential new mascot.
Davis students have always loved our cows — perhaps, dare I say, much more than our confusingly blue mustang, Gunrock, based on a racehorse of the same name that lived on campus in the 1920s. Why do we have a mustang mascot when the real Gunrock was a thoroughbred and our Cal Poly rivals have a much more legitimate claim to the horse?
As a child of two UC Davis alumni, I’ve owned Aggie merch my whole life. I wore a black-and-white UC Davis “cow tipping contest” shirt for years until I decided it was making light of animal cruelty. That shirt led me to believe UC Davis’ mascot was surely the cow.
So what’s an Aggie?
The “Aggie,” as any UC Davis student or alum will tell you, is a loving acknowledgment of the school’s agricultural past and present. A land-grant university, UC Davis underwent a name change in 1922: From “University Farm,” an extension of UC Berkeley, to “Northern Branch of the College of Agriculture.” And that’s how Davis’ students — like students at other ag-centric land-grant schools — became known as the Aggies.
The university’s mascot, however, is a different story. Just as Texas A&M students are known as “Aggies” and rep a dog named Reveille for their mascot, we Aggies have a blue mustang.
So where do cows fit in? It’s not uncommon for prospective and first-year Aggies to reasonably assume we rep a cow mascot. After all, the Davis dairy cows are located near a student housing complex and visited by many first-year students; cows can be found on university merchandise; and just last year, Davis students picked the cow as both the university’s best campus animal and best quirk.
The irony of our love for cows but rejection of the bovine as mascot has rightly upset UC Davis students for decades. In 1993, Davis students voted for a cow to become the school’s official mascot. The vote was successful — until then-UC Davis chancellor Theodore L. Hullar and his administration rejected it.
Now, a group of about 30 UC Davis students are again attempting a mascot coup. Their efforts have thus far paid off: On Monday, the “Cow 4 Mascot” campaign was victorious in an undergraduate vote. With student support, Team Cow will now meet with the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and school administrators to talk next steps.
The Cow 4 Mascot group has settled on a name for our new mascot hopeful: Aggie the Cow. It’s a nod to the school’s rich agricultural history, merging the mascots of yesterday with those of today. It’s perfect.