Make room, Gunrock the Mustang, there's a new mascot on campus in Davis, Calif.
A group at the University of California Davis that has been working to switch the Aggies' mascot from a mustang to a cow have sort of won: the cow is the mascot of the student government group, Associated Students of the University of California Davis. The mascot was made official on Sept. 30, according to The California Aggie. , after a student movement pushed to change the university's mascot.
The Associated Students group collaborated with and the “Cow4Mascot” campaign, the student-organized movement that sought to change the official mascot to a dairy cow last spring. Following the 2022 ASUCD spring elections, in which 73% of students voted to change the UC Davis mascot from Gunrock the mustang to a cow, the leaders of Cow4Mascot entered into talks with campus administrators and alumni to discuss the feasibility of the switch and possible next step was.
“HOLY COWWWW,” the caption of a Cow4Mascot Instagram post reads. “C4M is excited to announce that the official ASUCD mascot is a cow!!!”
Mick Hashimoto, a fourth-year economics and statistics double major and the head of Cow4Mascot, said that the election gave legitimacy to the claim that a cow mascot was what students wanted.
“We were able to present the points that we were making about why this change should happen and about why current students don’t really feel that attached to Gunrock, and the election results speak to that," Hashimoto said. And he was like ‘sure I get it, let’s just say current students do think that, if you get alumni approval, we can move forward.”
Hashimoto said that following the first meeting between Cow4Mascot leaders and the president of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, there was concern about the scope of the re-branding to change the mascot and about dissent from alumni who felt attached to Gunrock.
“We were like ‘okay, we totally understand where you’re coming from, but is there any way you guys could pass a vote or hold an election through the alumni?’” Hashimoto said. “We wanted them to get an alumni vote like we did with students, and they didn’t agree to that.”
Hashimoto then met again with May, who helped the team examine the branding concern by directing them to the groups on campus that would be most affected by and involved in a branding change.
“UC Davis Stores is the one organization on campus that was extremely in favor,” Hashimoto said. “They really support the cow. Cow merchandise at the UC Davis stores sells by a 10 to one ratio [compared] to Gunrock, so it really goes to show that […] students associate themselves with the cow.”
Cow4Mascot leaders and ASUCD representatives then attended the CAAA annual board meeting and presented a new idea, having dual mascots, so that alumni who felt connected to Gunrock and students who favored the cow could be represented.
“I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a student choice mascot, through the ASUCD mascot, and that would become the cow,” Hashimoto said. “Because it went through ASUCD, they obviously recognize their own elections as legitimate, so they said because the elections say that students want the cow, we will move forward with that.”
Former ASUCD President Ryan Manriquez said he sees the cow as a beloved symbol of campus.
“The cows are something that almost every freshman gets to know immediately once they step foot on campus,” Manriquez said. “Once you complete your four years here, you find yourself absolutely loving the cows — maybe [even] in your first couple of months. I know I was that way. I would take trips to go see the cows.”
Manriquez said that post-pandemic, ASUCD has struggled with name recognition with students, which he said he believes a mascot could help change.
“So many people got behind the cow for mascot,” Manriquez said. “I can see that easily translating over to many people getting behind ASUCD and the services that we provide.
Hashimoto said that he thinks the cow becoming the ASUCD mascot is “a great compromise” and that the Cow4Mascot group understands the alumni association’s position. However, he added that the way he sees it, they are still “playing the long game.”
“It’s hard to make such a large change at a public university so suddenly,” Hashimoto said. “If I can institutionalize the mascot by making it a part of the university by being part of the ASUCD constitution […] I’m thinking in 30 to 40 years, when our generation becomes the alumni, they’ll eventually just have to change the mascot to be a cow because everyone at that point would be more associated with the cow than with Gunrock.”
According to Hashimoto, the next step will be naming the cow, as well as potentially creating merchandise themed around the new mascot.