New Live Mascots Ready to Make WT Debut 

Chip Chandler

President Wendler, both Thunders and members of the Herdsmen. Photo provided by WTAMU Communication and Marketing

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124, [email protected]

CANYON, Texas — A pair of brand-new Buffs are ready to rumble onto the campus of West Texas A&M University.

Two new live mascots — both, per tradition, officially named “Thunder” — will greet students during Buff Branding on Aug. 21 and will be introduced to the larger WT community before the first home football game Sept. 2.

“WT is one of two universities that have live buffalo mascots,” President Walter V. Wendler said. “The tradition of our mascot and the traditions of our campus are important to our students, to our faculty and staff, and to the people who live in the Texas Panhandle.”

The male calves, both about 4 months old, are the responsibility of the WT Herdsmen, under the direction of Ph.D. student Logan Burleson in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. The calves were donated by John Hays, who rases bison in Bangs, and from the family of Joe Graham, father of The Texas A&M University System Regent Jay Graham. They each were acquired around 2 weeks old and are being trained simultaneously.

“Buffaloes are herd animals, so they are much calmer and more receptive to training when they are working together,” Burleson said.

Even so, the calves — nicknamed “Lightning” and “Mater,” after characters in Pixar’s Route 66-themed film “Cars” — are not pets and will not be treated that way, Burleson said.

“They are wild animals,” he said. “This isn’t like having a dog or a horse. They aren’t domesticated, and our Herdsmen were specially chosen for their skills in working respectfully with animals.”

In addition to Buff Branding, both Thunders will be introduced to the campus at a variety of other events. It’s all part of a strategy to make sure they are ready for larger crowds at football games.

“This age is a good time for them to be around crowds,” said Rebekah Bachman, assistant dean of the Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. “They are still small enough to be controlled while they get used to being around people.”

Though the calves are expected to make appearances at all home games, due to safety and logistical reasons, they no longer will run onto the field, as was tradition at WT’s former football stadium.

WT’s first live mascots were purchased in 1922 from Col. Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight; the buffalo “Charlie” was mounted for posterity and donated to Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. The live mascot program was revived in the 1970s, when the Herdsmen were formed.

Today, the Herdsman organization is made up of nine young men and women: Benjamin Bozeman, a junior history major from Plainview; Joseph Gerlach, a junior animal science pre-veterinary medicine major from Decatur; Dalton Keener, a junior agricultural business and economics major from Fredericksburg; Kaitlyn Medeiros, a junior animal science pre-veterinary medicine major from Austin; Makenzie Norden; a sophomore animal science pre-veterinary medicine major from Conroe; Logan Paetzold, a sophomore agricultural business and economics major from Hereford; Adriana Rademacher, a senior environmental science major from Splendora; Kevin Stromberg, a senior wildlife biology major from Toluca, Ill.; and Ryan Tomaselli, a senior animal science pre-veterinary medicine major from Castroville.

“Our main job is just to take care of them and to portray the spirit of WT through the buffalos,” Gerlach said.

Bolstering regional pride and campus spirit is in line with the University’s long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.


About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. With enrollment of more than 10,000, WT offers 60 undergraduate degree programs, 40 master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.


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