Go Cougars

Brigham Young University selected the cougar as its mascot in 1923. Eugene L. Roberts, a coach and faculty member, suggested the cougar because it is native to Utah and it exemplified the traits that he hoped athletes competing for Brigham Young University would have. These traits included strength, agility, grace, quickness, and beauty. In 1925 an alumnus of Brigham Young University notified Roberts that he had captured a mother cougar and three of her kittens. He wanted to know if the university would be interested in obtaining the kittens. Two of the kittens were brought to campus to serve as mascots. They were named Cleo and Tarbo.

The first BYU mascots were two young cougar cubs named Cleo and Tarbo.

The first BYU mascots were two young cougar kittens named Cleo and Tarbo.

The young cougar kittens were soon adopted by George K. Lewis as personal pets and quickly became fixtures on campus during the 1925-1926 school year.


George K. Lewis with Cleo and Tarbo, ca. 1925

The cougar kittens were kept on the south side of Temple Hill until 1930 when Tarbo died and Cleo was sent to a zoo in Salt Lake City. The school has not owned cougars since then, although live cougars were sometimes brought to campus for special occasions. The current mascot, Cosmo Cougar, made his deput in the 1950s.

A number of collections are available for those interested in learning more about the cougar mascots of Brigham Young University.  They include:

  • UA 62 Brigham Young University Dept. of Athletics records, 1925-1928.  This collection includes typescript news release and a program announcing the acquisition of two cougar kittens to become mascots; it also includes their disposition and names.
  • UA 1312 Alexander Wadley reminiscences, 2006.  This collection consists of two reminiscences. The first discusses the Block Y and various activities associated with it. The second discusses life at Brigham Young University in the 1930s and describes the different buildings on campus as well as student life. It also includes a discussion of the first cougar mascots.
  • UA 869 Brigham Young University single photo file, ca. 1890s-1980s.  This collection of campus photographs includes images of Cleo and Tarbo as well as early versions of Cosmo Cougar.

These collections are available for research in the Perry Special Collections (1130 HBLL).  If you would like to learn more information about the mascot of Brigham Young University, please contact the University Archivist at (801) 422-5821 or gordon_daines@byu.edu .

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