Mike VI in his on-campus habitat across from Tiger Stadium

LSU's Live Tiger Mascot, Mike VII

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World-Class Habitat

Mike the Tiger, the famed live Bengal Tiger serves as the graphic image of all LSU athletic teams, resides between Tiger Stadium and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

In 2005, a $3.7 million new environment was created for Mike V that is 15,000 square feet in size with lush planting, a large live oak tree, a beautiful waterfall and a stream evolving from a rocky backdrop overflowing with plants and trees. The habitat has, as a backdrop, an Italianate tower - a campanile - that creates a visual bridge to the Italianate architectural vernacular that is the underpinning of the image of the entire beautiful LSU campus. This spectacular habitat features state-of-the-art technologies, research, conservation and husbandry programs, as well as educational, interpretive and recreational activities. It is, in essence, one of the largest and finest Tiger habitats in the United States.

Past Traditions

For years, Mike's ride through Tiger Stadium before home games in a travel trailer topped by the LSU cheerleaders was a school tradition. Before entering the stadium, his cage on wheels is parked next to the opponent's lockerroom in the southeast end of the stadium. Opposing players must make their way past Mike's cage to reach their locker room.

Tradition dictated that for every growl elicited by Mike before a football game, the Tigers would score a touchdown that night. For many years, Mike was prompted to roar by pounding on the cage. Objections of cruel punishment brought about the use of recorded growls to play to the crowd before the games.

The Tiger mascot stopped traveling with the LSU team in 1970 when his cage overturned on Airline Highway in an accident en route to a game. Mike IV traveled on multiple occasions, as he appeared at a Mardi Gras parade in 1984, the 1985 Sugar Bowl and two LSU's basketball games in the Louisiana Superdome. Mike V made his first road trip in December 1991 to the Louisiana Superdome to witness the LSU men's basketball team with Shaquille O'Neal defeat Texas, 84-83.

In 1981, pranksters cut the chain to the outer door and the lock to the inner cage door of the enclosure, releasing Mike. LSU police called Dr. Bivin around 1 a.m. to tell him that Mike was in the middle of North Stadium Drive. He wandered into the Bernie Moore Track Stadium, where Dr. Bivin shot him with a tranquilizer pistol (it took three shots to sedate him). He was safely returned to his enclosure.

The incident was reminiscent of a kidnapping of Mike I many years ago by Tulane students before a Tiger-Green Wave battle.

Birthdate: July 23, 2005 (named “Roscoe”)
Donated by: Great Cats of Indiana in Idaville, Ind.
Heritage: Bengal/Siberian mix
Weight: approx. 440 lbs. (2015)
Arrived in Baton Rouge: August 25, 2007
First Public Appearance: Sept. 1, 2007
Designated as Mike VI: Sept. 8, 2007
Dedication as Mike VI's Habitat: Sept. 14, 2007
Died: Oct. 11, 2016 | Obituary

Thoughts of the state of Indiana may produce images of Bobby Knight, Peyton Manning, John Mellencamp or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the minds of LSU supporters, the Hoosier State will now also be remembered as the source of the university’s live tiger mascot, Mike VI.

A 2-year-old Bengal/Siberian mix formerly known as “Roscoe,” Mike VI was donated to LSU in August of 2007 by Great Cats of Indiana in Idaville, Ind., a nonprofit sanctuary and rescue facility for big cats and other large carnivores. LSU veterinarian Dr. David Baker began the search for the young tiger after his predecessor, Mike V, died in May of 2007 of renal failure at the age of 17.

Mike VI arrived in Baton Rouge on Aug. 25, and he was originally scheduled to be quarantined for two weeks in the “night house” of his habitat across the street from Tiger Stadium. However, the quarantine period was reduced to just one week after it became apparent to Baker that Mike had adjusted quickly to his new surroundings.

Mike VI was released into the outside portion of his habitat on Sept. 1, making his first public appearance before a throng of adoring LSU fans. He was officially designated as the successor to Mike V on Sept. 8, when LSU played host to Virginia Tech. Six days later, on Sept. 14, 2007, a ceremony was held to honor Mike V and dedicate the habitat to Mike VI (photos).

In late May of 2016, Mike VI was diagnosed with a spindle cell sarcoma, a type of cancer. On June 1, he was taken to Mary Bird Perkins - Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center for stereotactic radiotherapy, which delivered a precise, concentrated dose of radiation to Mike's cancer.

On Oct. 3, Mike was taken to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine for observation and two days later in a press conference it was announced that the cancer had returned and spread. Tiger fans came to his habitat to offer well-wishes and take pictures with Mike VI before he was moved to "hospice care" inside the facility on Oct. 10.

On Oct. 11, 2016, Mike VI was humanely euthanized Tuesday at the age of 11 following his four-month battle with cancer.

Birthdate: Oct. 18, 1989 (named “Stevie”)
Donated by:
Dr. Thomas and Caroline Atchison of the Animal House Zoological Park in Moulton, Ala.
First Public Appearance: Feb. 21, 1990 (Men's Basketball game)
Designated as Mike V:
April 30, 1990
Moved Into New Habitat: Aug. 27, 2005
May 18, 2007 | Obituary

Mike V was born Oct. 19, 1989, and came to LSU when he was four months old. Mike V was donated to LSU by Dr. Thomas and Caroline Atchison of the Animal Zoological Park in Moulton, Ala. Avid LSU supporter Charles Becker, a member of the LSU booster group the Tammany Tigers, put Dr. Sheldon Bivin of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in touch with the Atchisons. Bivin traveled to Alabama and brought the baby tiger back to Baton Rouge.

He was introduced to LSU fans at the LSU-Alabama basketball game on Feb. 21, 1990, and he was moved into his home, north of Tiger Stadium, on April 30, 1990. When Mike V first came to LSU, his night house was part of the original habitat constructed in 1937.

Mike V moved into a beautiful new 15,000-square foot habitat on Aug. 27, 2005, that included lush planting, a large live oak tree, a waterfall and a stream evolving from a rocky backdrop overflowing with plants and trees. 

Mike V died on May 18, 2007 of renal failure at the age of 17. He had been anesthetized and brought to the LSU SVM on May 16 so that Dr. David Baker could determine the cause of recent weight loss and respiratory difficulty. During the examination, it was determined that Mike had a large amount of fluid around his lungs. Emergency surgery was performed, and the fluid successfully removed. Mike’s aged kidneys could not tolerate the anesthesia and failed.

Mike V was cremated, and his ashes are located in the Andonie Museum next to the LSU Alumni Association on LSU’s campus.

Birthdate: May 15, 1974 (named “Jerry”)
Donated by:
August A. Busch III from the Dark Continent Amusement Park in Tampa, Fla.
Designated as Mike IV:
Aug. 29, 1976
Died: March 3, 1995

Mike IV was born at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., on May 15, 1974. He was donated to LSU on Aug. 27, 1976, by August A. Busch, III of Busch Gardens. He arrived at LSU on Aug. 29, 1976.

Mike spent the summer of 1981 at the Little Rock Zoo while his enclosure was being expanded from 400 to 1,100 square feet. Money for the expansion was raised from the LSU Student Government Association, the Athletic Department, LSU fans, and a fee of $2 per student.

In 1981, pranksters cut the chain to the outer door and the lock to the inner cage door of the enclosure, releasing Mike. LSU police called Dr. Bivin around 1 a.m. to tell him that Mike was in the middle of North Stadium Drive. He wandered into the Bernie Moore Track Stadium, where Dr. Bivin shot him with a tranquilizer pistol (it took three shots to sedate him). He was safely returned to his enclosure.

In April 1990, Mike developed a neurologic problem that resulted in mild lameness. In addition, he was getting on in years and was beginning to slow down. The Baton Rouge Zoo offered to take in the aging mascot. There he lived until his condition worsened, and he became severely disabled.

Mike IV was put to sleep on March 3, 1995. Mike IV was cremated, and his ashes are located in the Andonie Museum next to the LSU Alumni Association on LSU’s campus.

Birthdate: Nov. 26, 1957
Origin: Seattle Zoo ($950)
Arrived at LSU:
August 1958
First Public Appearance: Oct. 4, 1958
Died: Aug. 12, 1976

In 1958, Jim Corbett and Jack Gilmore located and purchased Mike III from the Seattle zoo. Mike III was born on November 26, 1957, and arrived at LSU in late August 1958.

The LSU student body raised $1,500 for his purchase and transportation (though the final purchase price was only $950, with an additional $100 for transportation). A five-cent “tradition fee” was assessed each student for the tiger’s care.

Mike III was introduced to the general public at the first home game of the 1958 season, on Oct. 4 against Hardin-Simmons University (LSU won 20-6). Mike died of pneumonia on Aug. 12, 1976, after the only losing football season of his lifetime.

Birthdate: Feb. 28, 1956 (original Mike II)
Origin: Audubon Zoo of New Orleans, La.
Arrived at LSU:
Sept. 28, 1956
First Public Appearance: Sept. 29, 1956
Died: October 1956 (see below for details on replacement Tiger)

Mike II was born on Feb. 28, 1956, at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. He arrived secretly on campus on Sept. 28, 1956. Mike’s unveiling occurred the next day, Sept. 29, opening day of football season. A ceremony was held, during which Enos Parker presented a check for $1,500 to George Douglas, superintendent of the Audubon Zoo.

Legend has it that less than a month after his arrival at LSU, Mike II died of pneumonia at only eight months of age. Reportedly, Mike II was then secretly buried under a willow tree along the Mississippi River by newly appointed athletic director Jim Corbett, campus police chief C. R. “Dick” Anderson, and LSU Athletic Department business manager Jack Gilmore. To explain Mike’s absence, a statement was issued in the LSU Daily Reveille on Oct.  23 saying that Mike was having trouble adjusting to his enclosure and was there being kept inside “until he becomes more accustomed to the excitement of being a mascot.”

Another cub of the right age was located at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, according to Gilmore. In addition to Gilmore’s testimony, several pieces of evidence support the legend that the original Mike II died and was replaced by another young tiger. Photographs of Mike II taken before and after his convalescence are clearly of two different tigers (facial markings of tigers are as unique as fingerprints), and he seemed to have grown at a tremendous rate. All rumors of the death and replacement of Mike II were denied. The second Mike II reigned at LSU for only one season. He died at the Audubon Zoo on May 15, 1958, of complications associated with multiple fractures to his left rear leg (it was not known exactly how or when the leg was injured).

Birthdate: Oct. 10, 1935 (named "Sheik")
Origin: Little Rock Zoo ($750)
Arrived at LSU:
Oct. 21, 1936
Died: June 29, 1956

In 1936, the original Mike was purchased from the Little Rock Zoo for $750, with money contributed by the student body. Originally known as "Sheik" at the time of his purchase, his name was changed to Mike for Mike Chambers who served as LSU's athletic trainer when the first mascot was purchased.

Chambers had played football at Illinois where he blocked for the legendary Red Grange.

The first Mike was housed in the Baton Rouge Zoo for one year before a permanent home was constructed near Tiger Stadium. Mike I reigned for 20 years before dying of pneumonia in the midst of a six-game LSU losing streak in 1957.

Fearing the LSU faithful would give up hope upon the death of the mascot, Mike's death was not made public until the Tigers finally ended the losing streak.

LSU's Mascot (Costumed)

The live Bengal Tiger whose habitat lies across the street from Tiger Stadium has been a part of the LSU tradition since the early days of athletics in Baton Rouge (Nov. 21, 1936). Meanwhile, his two-legged furry costumed counterpart that stalks the sidelines of LSU athletics events has been on campus since the 1950s.

Mike travels throughout the country with many of the Tiger teams, while also making public appearances to promote LSU athletics in Baton Rouge and surrounding communities.

Mike was named "Most Collegiate Mascot" at the UCA Collegiate Camp held on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa both in 2002 and 2003.

Mike appears in television commercials annually, including an ESPN College Football Game Day commercial, and ESPN Sports Center commercial featuring Mike being rescued from a tree by former LSU great Shaquille O'Neal, and an advertisement for Tippen Motor Homes.

The Nickname: "Fighting Tigers"

Way back in the fall of 1896, coach A.W. Jeardeau's LSU football team posted a perfect 6-0 record, and it was in that pigskin campaign that LSU first adopted its nickname, Tigers.

"Tigers" seemed a logical choice since most collegiate teams in that year bore the names of ferocious animals, but the underlying reason why LSU chose Tigers dates back to the Civil War.

According to Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., PhD. and the "Guide to Louisiana Confederate Military Units, 1861-1865" (LSU Press, 1989), the name Louisiana Tigers evolved from a volunteer company nicknamed the Tiger Rifles, which was organized in New Orleans. This company became a part of a battalion commanded by Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat and was the only company of that battalion to wear the colorful Zouave uniform. In time, Wheat's entire battalion was called the Tigers.

That nickname in time was applied to all of the Louisiana troops of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The tiger symbol came from the famous Washington Artillery of New Orleans. A militia unit that traces its history back to the 1830s, the Washington Artillery had a logo that featured a snarling tiger's head. These two units first gained fame at the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861. Major David French Boyd, first president of LSU after the war, had fought with the Louisiana troops in Virginia and knew the reputation of both the Tiger Rifles and Washington Artillery.

Thus when LSU football teams entered the gridiron battlefields in their fourth year of intercollegiate competition, they tagged themselves as the "Tigers."

It was the 1955 LSU "Fourth-Quarter Ball Club" that helped the moniker "Tigers" grow into the nickname, "Fighting Tigers."

Thanks to Arthur W. Bergeron, Jr., PhD., a historian at the Pamplin Historical Park, for contributing to the above information.



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