Mike VI celebrates his 5th birthday, during the Year of the Tiger
He is the most celebrated non-Louisiana native on campus. His home, a $4 million natural habitat complete with a waterfall and a pool, is one of the most visited attractions at LSU. He is the live, walking and roaring face of our university—Mike VI, who celebrates his 5th birthday Friday, July 23.
Hailing from the small town of Idaville, Ind., Mike VI arrived on campus in 2007 when he was 2 years old, weighing 320 pounds. The LSU community met Mike VI Sept. 1, 2007, and he was given his official title later that month. He made his first public appearance in Tiger Stadium during the LSU vs. Florida football game, on a Saturday evening in October.
Currently weighing 460 pounds, he is expected to reach 500-600 pounds at maturity, in about another year. Mike VI enjoys 15 pounds of food each day, 105 pounds each week. His meals consist of 5-pound logs of ground meat, which include the proper vitamins and minerals Mike needs. He is also given a supplemental B vitamin once a week, and vitamin E capsules each night, for healthy skin and hair, along with general well-being. For his birthday, he might enjoy a frozen ox tail, as a treat.
Mike is cared for each day by two veterinary students and his personal veterinarian from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. David Baker. His student caretakers visit him daily, check on him and survey his habitat, where more than 100,000 fans visit him each year.
“Mike is generally very playful in the early morning and late evening,” said Nicholas Cross, one of Mike’s veterinary student caretakers. “You will find him sleeping most of the day, keeping cool in the shade of the bamboo and vines surrounding the enclosure. When he is not sleeping, he enjoys swimming in his pool, chasing his boomer ball and watching visitors come and go.”
Mike’s popularity is evident by the fact that LSU fans donated the entire $4 million that it took to build his world-class habitat. The “I Like Mike” campaign, along with the Tiger Athletic Foundation, are dedicated to caring for Mike and educating others about tigers around the world. Facts and information about tigers can be found around Mike’s habitat, such as tigers in history, Chinese mythology, the sleeping and eating habits of tigers and even the Year of the Tiger (1998, 2010, 2022).
“Mike is a fascinating animal,” Cross said. “What impresses me most is his intelligence. He recognizes the sight and sounds of our cars upon arrival at the enclosure.”
The LSU community has celebrated its live mascot for 74 years, since Mike I arrived on campus in 1936. Two years before Mike I became a part of LSU, the athletic trainer Chellis Mike Chambers, Athletic Director T.P. Heard, swimming pool manager and intramural swimming coach William G. Hickey Higginbotham and LSU Law student Ed Laborde wanted to bring a live tiger to campus. They collected 25 cents from each student, raising $750—enough to purchase the tiger.
The students, along with Chambers, found a one-year-old, 200-pound tiger at the Little Rock Zoo. The group changed his named from Sheik to Mike, in honor of Chambers. Mike I assumed his role as the official mascot in late October 1936 and remained on campus for almost 20 years, even traveling with the team. Mike I died in June 1956, at nearly 21 years old. A tiger in the wild can live, on average, 8-10 years. A tiger in captivity, like Mike, can live 14-18 years.
In July 1956, the Mike the Tiger fund started on campus after Rep. Kenneth Deshotel of St. Landry endorsed the purchase of another tiger, if it could be named Mike II. Less than one year old, Mike II arrived on campus Sept. 28, 1956. He was introduced to the public the following day, the opening day of football season.
There’s an air of mystery surrounding Mike II. According to legend, less than a month after his arrival, Mike II died of pneumonia during a six-game losing streak and was secretly buried near the Mississippi River and replaced with another tiger. In either case, Mike II “officially” died in May 1958.
Mike III was born Nov. 26, 1957, and was introduced to the LSU community at the first home football game of the 1958 season—the national championship season. Mike III reigned as the mascot for 18 years. During his life, LSU won the national championship, along with three SEC championships in 1958, 1961 and 1970. The football team played in 13 bowl games during Mike III’s reign, winning eight of them. After the only losing season of his life, Mike III died in August 1976.
Later that month, Mike IV was donated to LSU by August A. Busch of Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla. He was nearly 2 years old and weighed 450 pounds. In 1981, his home was being expanded to include a pool. He remained on campus for 14 years and retired to the Baton Rouge Zoo in 1990.
Later that year Mike V, originally named Stevie, was introduced to LSU fans at the Alabama vs. LSU basketball game in February. He was donated to LSU by Dr. Thomas and Caroline Atchison of the Animal House Zoological Park in Moulton, Ala.
Mike V participated in his first road trip, going to the Superdome for the LSU vs. Texas basketball game, in December 1991. Six years later, a new trailer for the tiger was donated by LSU fans Doug Guidroz and Rick Vallet. Mike V made his way to the Superdome again Jan. 1, 2002, for the LSU vs. University of Illinois football game in the Nokia Sugar Bowl.
The “I Like Mike” campaign began in 2001, raising money from fans, students and members of the LSU community. The money raised gave Mike V a new home, going from 1,100 square feet to more than 15,000 square feet in size. Mike V moved into his new habitat Aug. 27, 2005. Without realizing it, Mike V had stepped into one of the largest and finest tiger habitats in the nation, featuring lush planting, a large live oak tree, a waterfall, a stream and a swimming pond.
During his time as mascot, Mike V saw a football national championship, five baseball national championships and 23 track and field championships. He witnessed LSU athletics win 37 Southeastern Conference titles in his lifetime. Mike V died at age 17 on May 18, 2007.
Dr. Baker, started looking for a new tiger after Mike V’s passing. In July, he found Roscoe, now known as our beloved Mike VI. Already, during his brief tenure, Mike VI has witnessed both a football and baseball national championships for the Tigers.
Holly A. Phillips | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations