Hello, hola, bonjour, ciao, ni hao! Here in Texas, “howdy!” is the quintessential greeting. Each year, nearly 2.5 million visitors are given a warm welcome to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ by a giant, orange, “Bowlegged H” named Howdy, the Rodeo’s official mascot. You probably have seen Howdy around the Rodeo grounds enjoying all the Show has to offer from “sampling” his favorite Rodeo foods like deep-fried Oreos and barbecue at the carnival to watching all the horse events at NRG Arena.

Howdy is also a great admirer of Agricultural Mechanics, the Rodeo cowboys and the medical teams that support the cowboys and the performing animals. NRG Park is his home and happy place. You can also catch him in the Grand Entry and at all the Rodeo auctions. Howdy does not miss a single performance of the nightly Rodeo and world-class concerts either. Mutton Bustin’ and the Calf Scramble are additional evening favorites for the Rodeo’s official mascot.

Howdy came to life in 1993 when then-Parade Committee chairman and now-Executive Committee member Hap Hunnicutt sketched him out on a napkin. As an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, Howdy needed to mirror his alma mater and wear that signature Texas orange. He also needed to wear a white cowboy hat, along with leather gloves and boots, as a genuine Texas good guy. With his memorable blue cowboy mustache, Howdy embodies the true neighborly Texas spirit as he represents and supports all youth and educational institutes in the great state of Texas.

According to Parade Committee Chairman John Hantak, Howdy is “a proud member of the Parade Committee.” As the Howdy Handler for eight years, Vice Chairman Dennis Bartel supervises Howdy and stays very busy with him throughout the year.

With 141 appearances in the past year, you may have seen him at various committee parties and events, including the annual Downtown Rodeo Parade, Special Children’s Committee events, Susan G. Komen Houston Race for the Cure, Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathon. Howdy sightings include external guest appearances at the City of Houston Annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade, City of Pasadena Rodeo, Houston Rockets’ events, and various church, FFA and 4-H agricultural celebrations. As a result of the thousands of events and ceremonies that Howdy has attended since his birth, his leather-fringed gloves have given countless handshakes throughout the years.

Bartel is not the only one who assists Howdy at all these events. In addition to Bartel, it takes Hantak, four captains, six Howdy impersonators and three Howdy suits to support the Rodeo’s official mascot. The Howdy Handlers are part of the mascot’s entourage and are essential to his success at all these events.

Visitors taking pictures with Howdy may also have noticed he doesn’t talk. Howdy Handlers communicate and translate for him. Although being inside the Howdy costume is a hugely fulfilling experience, it is sometimes difficult to see and hear, and challenges can arise. The Howdy Handler assists the Rodeo mascot to hug his new friends and pose to capture countless pictures for eternal Rodeo memories. Howdy loves knowing he creates smiles on the multitude of faces he greets every day.

If you haven’t seen Howdy at one of these many events, you have a good chance of running into him at NRG Center in March where he likes to shop, eat and visit with kids from all over Texas who are showing their animals. Howdy also enjoys seeing the school art, horticulture and other exhibits throughout NRG Center and loves visiting with his friends at AGVENTURE, presented by Oxy, learning and checking out the many Rodeo animals in the live exhibits.

As the official Show mascot, Howdy is a welcoming ambassador who is happy to give hugs and take pictures and selfies with new and old Rodeo friends. So, be on the lookout for our friendly “Bowlegged H” because no one says hello like Howdy!