The History Behind Mississippi State Cowbell Tradition

Posted by on September 22, 2019

The cow­bells are an un­avoid­able Mis­sis­sippi State tra­di­tion, one that dates back to some­time be­tween 1930 and 1940 when — no one is quite sure of the ex­act date — a Jer­sey cow wan­dered onto the field when Mis­sis­sippi State was play­ing archri­val Ole Miss. Mis­sis­sippi State tri­umphed. The stu­dents promptly adopted the Jer­sey as a good luck charm. And grad­u­ally Bull­dogs fans be­gan bring­ing cow­bells to games.

A cou­ple of Mis­sis­sippi State pro­fes­sors came up with the idea of weld­ing han­dles to the top of the cow­bells to make them eas­ier to ring. By 1964, the Mis­sis­sippi State book­store be­gan of­fer­ing cow­bells for sale. And as years passed, the ring­ing at home games seemed to get louder and louder and louder.

This was all to the cha­grin of Mis­sis­sippi State’s op­po­nents, es­pe­cially their mem­ber in­sti­tu­tions of the SEC. By 1974, leg­endary Auburn coach Shug Jor­dan had had enough. He sent a hand­writ­ten let­ter com­plain­ing about the cow­bells to the con­fer­ence of­fice. And just like that, start­ing in 1975, the league banned ar­ti­fi­cial noise­mak­ers, in­clud­ing cow­bells.

Banned but not for­got­ten, of course. Mis­sis­sippi State fans kept find­ing ways to sneak their beloved cow­bells into Davis Wade and other sta­di­ums to make their tra­di­tion heard. Why in 1981, a Mis­sis­sippi State pro­fes­sor filed a civil suit against Auburn for con­fis­cat­ing his cow­bell when he was en­ter­ing Jor­dan-Hare Sta­dium.

All along the way, Mis­sis­sippi State ar­gued that cow­bells were dif­fer­ent. There was noth­ing ar­ti­fi­cial about them. They were a part of the univer­sity. Why it is cus­tom­ary for Mis­sis­sippi State fans to re­ceive their first cow­bell as a gift, per­haps from their par­ents, or an alum.

“What’s your iden­tity?” for­mer Mis­sis­sippi State coach Jackie Sher­rill (1991-2003) asked Satur­day Down South. “When you think of Mis­sis­sippi State, you think cow­bells.”

Fi­nally, in 2010, the league re­lented. It ruled that for a oneyear pro­ba­tion pe­riod, Mis­sis­sippi State fans could ring the cow­bells dur­ing pre-game, time­outs, half­time and af­ter Mis­sis­sippi State scores. The fan base passed the pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod and the cow­bells have been a sta­ple at Davis Wade ever since, even to the point where the league now only pro­hibits the ring­ing of the bells “from the time the offensive cen­ter is over the foot­ball un­til the play is whis­tled dead.”

Not that every­one is happy about it. Mis­sis­sippi State op­po­nents still must deal with that crescendo of clang­ing, some­thing you don’t hear at any other sta­dium.  Get your bell at

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