The anteater’s calm demeanor does not strike fear into the hearts of many. However, when provoked, it transforms into a fierce competitor. These animals will use their claws, legs and tail to defend themselves. For this reason, anteaters should not be taken lightly and should be approached with caution. Despite contrary belief, the anteater is no slouch or pushover.
On Monday, Nov. 30, 1965, the student body voted the anteater as the official UC Irvine mascot. The anteater won because of its originality, as it beat out “none of these” and the third-place finisher, “seahawks.”
When people hear the story of how the anteater became the UCI mascot, many laugh or question the decision. Sure, the anteater is not the most appealing mascot ever invented. Lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) are more intimidating than an anteater as these animals typify confidence and ferocity. No human being in their right mind would dare mess with these animals, as the consequences are steep.
Odds are that a lion, tiger or bear would shred an anteater to pieces, as those animals are much bigger, faster and stronger. However, I would take the anteater as a mascot over those three animals any day of the week.
There is no ounce of uniqueness in a lion, tiger or bear. For example, take the bear and tiger as a mascot. There are 24 universities in the United States who claim the bear as a mascot, and 45 other schools use the tiger, including Louisiana State University and Auburn University, two schools that both compete in the Southeastern Conference.
Other outplayed and overused mascots include, but are not limited to, the bulldog, eagle and pioneer. A pioneer makes a great mascot, as it represents leadership, adventure and courage. However, this mascot becomes repetitive and loses its meaning when 31 universities decide to use the pioneer as its representative symbol. Schools that adopt the pioneer are not embodying the meaning of their mascot. Instead they are following the crowd and playing it safe, something that a true pioneer would not stand for.
The UCI student body of 1965 were the true pioneers as they took a risk by choosing a unique mascot in the anteater. UCI is the only school to claim the anteaters as its official mascot. By choosing this specific animal, UCI is original and separates itself from other institutions. When people hear the word “anteater,” UCI should come to mind. The anteater has become the UC Irvine brand. Not many schools can claim this. How do Clemson University, LSU and Auburn University all distinguish themselves? It is not by their mascot. These are just three of the 45 schools that use a tiger.
Not only does the anteater have a leg up on the tiger, lion and bear when it comes to originality, but the anteater has an impressive resume. In June 2007, the anteater traveled to Washington D.C. and met then-President George W. Bush after the UCI men’s volleyball team won the national championship. In August of 2007, Peter became the first anteater in space, as it traveled with NASA astronaut, Tracey Caldwell. When the UCI baseball team participated in the College World Series in the summer of 2007, the anteater was the hot topic.
Some may argue that other schools have more unique and creative mascots than an anteater. UC Irvine’s brother to the north, UC Santa Cruz, uses a banana slug as a mascot. Stanford claims a tree. UCSC is the only school in the nation whose mascot is a banana slug; Stanford is the only one to utilize a tree.
But while the banana slug and the tree can compete with the anteater on a creativity level, they do fall short on other areas. The banana slug and tree are not symbols of power and strength. How are these two going to defend themselves or intimidate others? The anteater uses it claws, legs and tail, and a giant anteater can grow up to seven feet in length.
A mascot should have a unique blend of creativity, originality, intimidation and strength. The anteater contains of all of these qualities.
Next time you decide to ridicule the student body of 1965, think twice. They knew what they were doing when it came to choosing a mascot. They could have taken the easy route. But they didn’t. They could have succumbed to the temptation of choosing a much more appealing or intimidating, yet overused, mascot like an eagle or tiger. But they didn’t. They could have gone overboard with their originality. But they didn’t.
There are more creative and threatening mascots in the nation, but the anteaters should not be underestimated.
Just ask the Sun Devils, Trojans, Demon Deacons, Titans and countless other mascots that have fallen victim to the “timid” UCI Anteater.