7 Weirdest College Mascots in California

Colleges in California boast an array of quirky mascots. From poets to banana slugs, here are the seven weirdest college mascots in the Golden State.
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Danika Miller
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Danika Miller is a senior writer at BestColleges and Accredited Schools Online. Her writing has also appeared in Grad School Hub, Best Value Schools, Affordable Colleges Online, and Her Campus. Her financial expertise has been featured in The Simple ...
Updated on June 16, 2023
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Hannah Muniz is a senior editor with BestColleges, specializing in college planning, test prep, student life, and sponsored content. She previously worked as a freelance writer, composing articles on the SAT/ACT, higher education, language learning, ...
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College mascots embody the spirits of their universities, shaping campus cultures and inspiring traditions. And sometimes, they're super, super weird.

Here are seven of the weirdest college mascots in California, from a famous Ivy League shrub to an obscure nautical figurehead. Whether or not you let these quirky campus heroes influence your college decision is up to you!

1. Tree — Stanford University

Technically Stanford doesn't have an official mascot. However, its (very legitimate) unofficial mascot is a tree.

What began as a mascot for the school's band, the Stanford Tree grew in popularity among students, eventually becoming an important symbol for the university. Students hoping to don the iconic evergreen mascot costume must undergo a rigorous selection process.

What's more, the Stanford Tree even has its own Twitter account.

2. Banana Slug — UC Santa Cruz

Sammy the Banana Slug is the bright face of UC Santa Cruz. Banana slugs are native to the redwood forests along the Pacific coast, but it's unlikely you'd spot one near Santa Cruz's beaches.

When the UC Santa Cruz men's tennis team competed in the NCAA championships, students sported cheeky T-shirts that read Banana Slugs, No Known Predators.

3. Poet — Whittier College

Whittier students are known as the fearsome poets. The school's mascot is Johnny Poet, a Quaker who carries around a giant pen (mightier than the sword — you get it.)

Johnny Poet is a nod to a prominent historical figure: both the college and its town were named after John Greenleaf Whittier, a poet and leader in the abolitionist movement.

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4. Keelhauler — Cal Maritime

Cal Maritime is home to Golden Beard the Keelhauler, a mascot chosen by the student body in the 1970s. Today, Golden Beard largely resembles a pirate or privateer.

The mascot has a rather dark origin, though. Keelhauling was a form of punishment used by the Dutch and English navies in which crewmembers were dragged under the keel of a ship.

5. Wave — Pepperdine University

SoCal surfer Willie the Wave has been Pepperdine's official mascot since 2006. The student who embodies Willie each year is kept a secret.

Pepperdine has a long history of trying different mascots and versions of Willie. At some points in the university's history, Willie was portrayed as a large jug of water and a student in a wetsuit.

Now, he's a sunglasses-sporting, Beach Boys-loving, anthropomorphic wave.

6. Sagehen — Pomona College

Pomona is home to a unique fowl mascot, Cecil the Sagehen. A sagehen is a greater sage-grouse that lives in sagebrush — though the large blue and orange bird hardly resembles an actual sagehen.

The origin of Cecil the Sagehen as Pomona's mascot is largely a mystery. The first reference to Cecil is in a 1946 Pomona yearbook.

7. Anteater — UC Irvine

Peter the Anteater was elected the UC Irvine mascot by student vote in 1965. The anteater made the ballot thanks to a few students campaigning for the mascot across campus and inspiration from a popular comic strip called B.C.

Peter is beloved by the UC Irvine community. Students proudly chant his battle cry, Zot! and the campus even has Zotmail, Zot codes, and a Zot-N-Go store.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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