The People of Tucson: Wilbur, The University of Arizona Mascot

The People of Tucson put their spin on places to visit.

Words and Photography by Evan Zavitz

Bear down, Arizona! Whether you are a local Tucsonan or just passing through the Old Pueblo, it’s hard to miss the fun-loving spirit that surrounds The University of Arizona. Who better to give visitors the lowdown than The University of Arizona mascot and Sonoran celebrity Wilbur T. Wildcat? Born November 7, 1959, Wilbur has embodied the “Wild” in Wildcat spirit that students have grown accustomed to for more than 60 years. Wilbur stands as a living icon and steward of the reputation exemplified by U of A students at season-opening football games and community outreach events. He lends his insights on some of the great history and traditions that make the U of A his favorite spot around town.

University of Arizona Mascot, Wilbur, shoots a large water gun while a crowd of U of A students mingle behind him.
Photo by Evan Zavitz

Game Day Gladiator

Over the years, as the Wild West town of Tucson continued to shed its frontier heritage and modernize, Wilbur followed suit. No longer needed as the law-bringer on the sometimes rowdy outskirts of the university, Wilbur traded in his six-shooters for the more gentile getup he sports today. 

“One of my favorite traditions here in Tucson is Bear Down Fridays. Before every home game, we get wild on University Boulevard with the Pride of Arizona marching band leading the charge and me in tow. The energy of the crowd is limitless,” said Wilbur. “Game days are always special for me. At the 2021 spring football opener, I helped cool down the crowd with a barrage of water balloons assisted by none other than our very own Rob Gronkowski!”

The University of Arizona mascot Wilbur is facing away wearing his number 20 red and blue football jersey waving.
Photo by Evan Zavitz

Cat About Town

Wilbur is an integral part of the Tucson community and loves spending time with locals and travelers, letting them in on the not-so-little secret that is the Old Pueblo. During the summer months when students are away, Wilbur takes advantage of the lull to center himself and engage with the great array of activities that go on in the Tucson community. One particular outdoor adventure that calls to Wilbur’s animal instincts—climbing to the summit of “A” Mountain for a great lookout over the city. What might surprise you is his love of a good swimming pool.

“Living in Arizona, the heat is on. Even a cat like me enjoys a nice dip in the pool to cool off on a sweltering day,” said Wilbur. The next time you are in town, don’t be alarmed if you bear witness to a big cat donning a blue sombrero. Don’t be afraid to say hi and grab a photo—our resident wildcat loves making new friends and creating great memories.