Mike the Tiger has symbolized the spirit and resolve of Louisiana State University for nearly seventy years. Fiercely confident, keenly competitive, and marvelously clever, the only live Bengal tiger to reside on a college campus reigns nobly from his home just outside of Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. LSU fans proudly vaunt the superiority of their mascot over the dog, bird, reptile, and pig emblems of other college teams, but few may know the complete history of the “Mikes” who have intimidated opponents and inspired the faithful since 1936. In this delightful volume, David G. Baker and W. Sheldon Bivin, Mike’s most recent veterinarians, combine behind-the-scenes anecdotes with more than one hundred vivid period photographs to debunk the myths, confirm the legends, and tell the never-before fully told story of “the roar of LSU.”
The authors begin by explaining the Civil War origins of LSU’s fighting tiger tradition and describing early representations of the live mascot. They then chronicle the reigns of each of the five Mikes: Mike I (1936–1956), who enjoyed late-night joyrides through Baton Rouge courtesy of his student caretakers; the mysterious Mike II (1956–1958), who legend says was actually two tigers; Mike III (1958–1976), the only tiger to witness a national championship football season; Mike IV (1976–1990), who both escaped his habitat and was held hostage in it; and Mike V (1990–present), reported by his caretakers to have the most amiable personality to date.
Over one hundred photographs bring the animals to life and attest to the university community’s enduring devotion to its five-hundred-pound pet. Throughout, Baker and Bivin offer fascinating details about the unique challenges of keeping a school icon that is still very much a wild animal. They also cover the basic facts about tigers and their conservation. Through the efforts of all who have cared for the Bengal mascot, Mike the Tiger’s role has expanded beyond rallying school spirit to include educating hundreds of thousands of people about one of earth’s most magnificent creatures.
An entertaining history of a remarkable living tradition, Mike the Tiger is a treat for all who ever said, “Meet me at the tiger cage,” for all who still shiver when Mike roars before a football game, and for all who will forever bleed purple and gold.
C. C. Lockwood, a recipient of the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award for Outstanding Conservation Photography and honored as a Louisiana Legend by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, has photographed the natural wonders of his home state and beyond for over four decades. His books include Marsh Mission: Capturing the Vanishing Wetlands; C. C. Lockwood’s Atchafalaya; Around the Bend: A Mississippi River Adventure; Beneath the Rim: A Photographic Journey through the Grand Canyon; Still Waters: Images, 1971–1999; and The Yucatán Peninsula.
Links for Mike the Tiger
Eye on a Tiger (video)
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