Believe it or not, in the 1930s, UCLA had a live bear mascot running about the sidelines at football games instead of a costumed one.
At the time, the Bruins played home football games at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, sharing their home stadium with USC. (The Bruins nickname was officially adopted in 1928.)
Eventually, the university adopted a Himalayan bear cub named “Little Joe Bruin,” which they brought to games until it, well, did what most bears do and became massive.
The university then purchased another bear named “Josephine,” which roamed the sidelines until she also got too big and was given to the San Diego Zoo.
The costumed Joe Bruin was adopted in the mid-1960s, followed by the costumed Josephine, and despite some alterations, the mascots have stayed the same since. A real bear hasn’t walked the sidelines of a UCLA football game in roughly 60 years.
There are safety concerns with a live bear, but other schools have live mascots at football games.
Texas’ Bevo, a steer, has had some run-ins with people -– and even other mascots.
Georgia’s Uga, a bulldog, tried to bite an Auburn football player, and Ralphie’s runners at Colorado will tell you that they can’t always predict what a full-grown American bison is going to do.
Live mascots, of course, seem much more entertaining than costumed ones.
The only thing that makes a Colorado Buffaloes football game worth the price of admission is watching Ralphie run around Folsom Field before each half. These days, that buffalo has more rushing yards than the team.
Jokes aside, a live bear on the sidelines at UCLA games could add to the Bruins’ intimidation factor, which they could certainly use after a disappointing loss to Arizona and a date with their crosstown rival USC at home next week.