Shasta at the Houston Zoo

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Shasta and Sasha

The mascot of the University has been a cougar since 1927. The mascot was selected by our then-professor John W. Bender. Coach Bender joined the faculty after having served as the head football coach at Washington State University. During his tenure at Washington State, he became fond of the WSU mascot (a cougar). When he arrived here, the students were looking for a name for the student newspaper (the school’s first extracurricular activity). He suggested that they call the newspaper the Cougar because of the grace, power and pride that the cougar embodies. The name was unanimously agreed upon. From that time on, all University of Houston student groups and activities have been associated with cougars.

Shasta is the name of the very first cougar that ever represented the University of Houston. The name was chosen from the Alpha Phi Omega’s “Name the Mascot” competition in the Daily Cougar. The winning entry was from then-student Joe Randol.

However, after the death of Shasta V in 1989, the University has not purchased another live cougar. There has been continuous debate and various attempts to resume the tradition, but none of the attempts have proven successful. So, the debates rage on.

Today, Shasta has morphed into a costumed student but still maintains the spirit of the Coogs. Shasta has been joined by a new “female” costumed mascot named Sasha. Many of the alumni were perplexed by this as Shasta was also female.