AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- One of the most-photographed collegiate sports mascots in the United States died in his sleep Friday from a serious illness, the University of Texas said.
Bevo XIV, a 6-foot-3, 2,100-pound longhorned steer -- the iconic mascot for the flagship Austin, Texas university -- had been in ill health for nearly two weeks, the school said Friday.
The National Grand Champion Show Steer had been a regular at Longhorns football games since 2004. The animal, also known as Sunrise Studly, was 13 years old.
The University of Texas, which is home to one of the nation's elite athletic programs, said Bevo XIV was a major celebrity across the Lone Star State.
"You pull over for gasoline and you're going to be there for an hour," Ricky Brennes, Bevo's day-to-day handler, said. "People want to come over, ask questions and get photos."
The University of Texas' Twitter account displayed numerous photos Friday of fans posing with Bevo.
Sunrise Studly was the latest steer to fill the mascot's role, which has been a staple at Texas games for 99 years.
Brennes noticed something wrong with Bevo XIV on Oct. 5 when he wasn't eating normally and seemed excessively tired. Veterinarians soon found that the steer had the bovine leukemia virus -- an affliction found in cattle but also genetically linked to human breast cancer.
The university said the animal died peacefully on Friday while resting at the home of his owners.
Bevo's passing has impacted fans and alumni around the United States. Texas A&M University, one of Texas' biggest sports rivals, expressed sadness Friday over the mascot's passing.
"Condolences to @UTAustin on the passing of @BEVO_XIV," Texas A&M tweeted Friday. "Mascots are truly special."
"Thanks, @TAMU. @Bevo_XIV loved his visit with [Texas A&M mascot] @reveille in 2012," the University of Texas replied.
The school will now search for Bevo XV, but may not be able to find the next mascot before the end of the 2015 football season.