We meticulously test and assess everything we review. Learn more about why you can trust us.

The Story Behind the University of Houston’s Mascot: Shasta  

The Story Behind the University of Houston’s Mascot Shasta

A mascot is something that’s believed to bring good luck to any group—even some non profit organizations have used mascots to represent their fundraising. 

But one of the things mascots are arguably most often associated with would be universities. This includes the University of Houston. 

What is the University of Houston’s mascot?

The University of Houston’s mascot is a cougar called Shasta.

What is the history behind Shasta?

What is the history behind Shasta

In 1947 the fraternity Alpha Phi Omega bought a cougar from Mexico. One of the University of Houston students won the naming contest for the mascot. 

Thus, the birth of Shasta, the cougar mascot, came to be.

Shasta was taken care of by a group of students known as the Cougar Guard and was brought to football games to motivate the crowd.

The Shasta tradition at UH grew entwined with the school’s history. On the way to a football game in Austin in 1953, Shasta I had an injury. 

Her toe was cut when it got stuck in a cage door. After learning of the cat’s injury, students at the University of Texas mocked the Cougars, who went on to lose the game 28-7, by curling their thumbs over their ring fingers in the same manner.

The hand motion was accepted as a symbol of school pride by UH football supporters after later, more successful games against the Longhorns.

UH had five live female cougars as their mascot between 1947 and 1989.

After adopting Shasta II, the University built Shasta’s Den, a cougar enclosure, on the southeast corner of Lynn Eusan Park. Shasta III, IV, and V lived in Shasta’s Den before being retired due to health reasons, while Shasta II and IV both retired because of misbehavior.

The University of Houston chose not to acquire a replacement live mascot after Shasta V passed away in 1989, instead choosing costumed students to continue on Shasta’s legacy on game day in place of the real cougars, a practice that has endured to this day.

The costumed Shasta is dressed as a football player, unlike the actual cougar mascots, all female. Sasha, the female cheerleading equivalent to the costumed Shasta, was debuted by the university in 1995.

Students continued to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of adopting a new cougar while the university went on without an actual mascot.

Who is Shasta VI? 

Who is Shasta VI

Shasta VI was the first live male cougar mascot and the first live mascot for the university since 1989.

He was an orphaned cougar kitten whose mother had been unlawfully shot and killed in Washington state. He was taken in by the Houston Zoo in 2011. 

The University of Houston Alumni Association partnered with the Houston Zoo, and in 2012, the cub was given the name Shasta VI.

Shasta VI was housed at the Houston Zoo and open to UH students at no cost. Class rings spend the night in Shasta’s cougar habitat before the twice-yearly ring ceremonies.

What happened to Shasta VI?

What happened to Shasta VI

Shasta VI, the 11-year-old cougar mascot passed away on August 4th 2022. 

According to Houston Zoo authorities, Shasta’s death came after months of treatment for a degenerative spinal illness. Additional health conditions were found that made it unlikely that Shasta would be able to live out his final years comfortably. 

He had been receiving care for a number of months for a degenerative spinal condition that quickly worsened. The zoo’s veterinary chiropractor treated Shasta VI. 

Shasta’s renal function was discovered to be deteriorating after treatment, which is typical. His general condition was thoroughly evaluated by the animal care and health professionals, and they ultimately decided to euthanize him.

The University of Houston has had numerous live animals serve as mascots, with Shasta VI being the most recent. He is remembered by Houstonians for his playful pursuit of his keepers and guarding of the graduation rings of UH classes.

Related topics