Mike the Tiger, the official mascot of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, serves as the graphic image of LSU sports and is the name of both the live and costumed mascots. By tradition the tiger is a live Bengal tiger, however, the last two were of mixed breed.
LSU first adopted its “Tigers” nickname in the fall of 1896 as a reference to the state’s Confederate heritage: the LA troops of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern VA became known s the Tigers during the Civil War in recognition of the bravery of two New Orleans brigades, the Tiger Rifles and the Washington Artillery (whose log featured a snarling tiger’s head).
There have been six Mike the Tigers beginning in 1936 and continuing until Mike VI died of cancer on October 11, 2016. It was announced that the school would begin its search for Mike VII and intends to find one from a rescue facility. In 2005, a new $3 million habitat was created for Mike with funds being raised entirely from private sources. It features state-of-the-art technologies and includes lush plantings, a waterfall, a flowing stream that empties into a wading pond, and rock plateaus. The habitat ranks among the largest and finest Tiger preserves in the country and expanded Mikes home from 2,000 to 15,000 square feet.
After the death of Mike III in 1976 while he was still LSU’s active mascot, a three-stage retirement plan was instituted for the tigers. Stage 1: He no longer participates in pre-game events such as the roar before the game; Stage 2: He stops attending the games altogether; Stage 3: He retires to another location.
Traditions: On home football game days, Mike’s cage on wheels is parked by the opponent’s locker room at the southeast end of Tiger Stadium. Opposing players must pass by Mike’s cage in order to reach their locker room. However, Mike is never forced into his trailer: If he does not go in on his own, he remains in his habitat. Mike VI was known for rarely entering his trailer. With his cage topped by LSU cheerleaders, Mike rides through Tiger Stadium before the start of home games. According to folklore, LSU will score a touchdown for every one of Mike’s roars on game day. Many students seek to take a picture with Mike on graduation day wearing cap and gown.