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Davis, California

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

#AggieMOOvement hopes to make a cow the official UC Davis mascot

A student-led petition is urging UC Davis to replace Gunrock the mustang with a cow in an effort to create unique identity for the school 

By ALINA ISSAKHANIAN — features@theaggie.org

A group of students led by Mick Hashimoto, a third-year applied statistics and economics double major, have proposed the #AggiesMOOvement, an effort meant to streamline the university’s identity by replacing the current mascot, Gunrock the mustang, with a cow. 

Hashimoto’s goal for this change is to create a more unique and unified identity for UC Davis, since he said that many students, like first-year philosophy major ThuyAnh Truong, already associate the university with cows.

“Coming to Davis for the first time, I was actually confused to hear that the mascot wasn’t a cow,” Truong said. “Cows are so synonymous with Davis that it seems fitting they’d be our mascot too.”

Hashimoto is pushing for the change primarily because he feels that the student body lacks school spirit, in part because they don’t feel a connection to Gunrock as the mascot. 

“With athletics as well as with a lot of other things, we lack a lot of school spirit,” Hashimoto said. “So for me, to change the mascot is to be able to […] have everyone get behind one thing that can help us feel a tighter sense of community here in Davis.” 

Hashimoto believes that UC Davis should have a unique mascot that matches the identity of the school, like how UC Santa Cruz has a banana slug and UC Irvine has an anteater.

“In freshman year, I was coming into orientation and I saw the cows by Tercero, and it kind of hit me: ‘Oh, we’re living in a cow town,’” Hashimoto said. “I think it’s a really cool connection that I had with the cows. A mustang is such a basic mascot — nationwide, there are many schools that are Mustangs — so it doesn’t really give Davis a unique identity even though we’re really unique.” 

The movement has gained support from many students who agree with Hashimoto, including third-year psychology major Ambika Vaidya. 

“I think it’s a great idea, as students have shown more school spirit [in connection] with the cow than the horse,” Vaidya said. “Although Gunrock is an amazing mascot, students have made cows more of a symbol for the school — cows are a major part of the campus and the school’s general atmosphere.”

Some students have expressed fears that changing the mascot to a cow would erase Gunrock’s history at Davis. ASUCD Senator Celeste Palmer said during discussion at a senate meeting on Feb. 3 that remembering the context in which Gunrock became UC Davis’s mascot should not be forgotten.

“It’s important to remember the actual history of this mascot,” Palmer said in the meeting. “Gunrock was an actual horse who lived at UC Davis. He was a thoroughbred, not a mustang, and he was brought by the U.S. cavalry to breed at UC Davis. This is an interesting story that actually makes it very unique.”

Gunrock is named after an Army Thoroughbred stud horse that was placed at UC Davis for civilian use in 1921. At Davis, Gunrock the Thoroughbred helped make a lasting impact on the school’s and state’s agricultural and veterinary advancements. After Gunrock died in 1932, to honor his impact, the students of UC Davis voted to name their chosen mascot of a mustang after Gunrock. 

Other students, like third-year microbiology major Courteney Davis, don’t feel strongly about this history. 

“Things are only a tradition because no one has changed them,” Davis said. “That’s what makes a tradition a tradition; [it] doesn’t mean it’s special.”

Hashimoto said that he doesn’t feel that the history of Gunrock the horse is relevant to much of the student body anymore. He said that, in terms of cohesiveness, a mustang doesn’t fit and that during the first few weeks of the #AggiesMOOvement, he had students reach out to him, not knowing what an “Aggie” was.

“If you don’t even know your school mascot or the distinction of your school name, is there any attachment to that for anyone?” Hashimoto said. “I really don’t think there is, and so by making our mascot a simple cow — because I think we are already attached to the cow anyway — it would be easy to convince the student body.” 

Hashimoto spoke with ASUCD senator Dennis Liang, who said that in 1993, UC Davis students actually voted to change the official mascot to a cow, but it never happened because an initiative to carry out the transition was not put in place. 

Hashimoto said he believes that this time could be different. He said that the MOOvement, which gained over 1,000 followers on Instagram in less than a week, is expected to do well during spring quarter’s ASUCD elections. Given its popularity and growth in the last month, Hashimoto expects that having this movement on the referendum for this spring’s elections will yield a large voter turnout for campus elections this spring, and he hopes that through this, the student body can be accurately represented. His goal is to get around 10,000 people to vote, about a third of the school’s population.

Hashimoto is also advertising the MOOvement through merchandise like stickers that he hides around campus for students to find, and tote bags, which he said will make their debut at the farmers market this spring. While he is confident in his efforts, Hashimoto said that even if the mascot does not become a cow, he would still consider the MOOvement a success because of how many students it has brought together. 

“I think changing the mascot to a cow would heighten the passion and enthusiasm of the community as we could have a mascot that we all identify with and rally around,” first-year physics major Andrew Birch said. “It matches with the campus spirit and culture, and changing the mascot would only increase those two things.”

Written by: Alina Issakhanian — features@theaggie.org