According to the UT Traditions website:
"The official mascot is Smokey, a rather pleasant blue tick coonhound that has been on the job since 1953. After a student poll revealed a desire to select a live mascot for the University of Tennessee, the UT Pep Club held a contest in 1953 to select a coon hound, a native breed of the state.
Announcements of the contest in local newspapers read, "This can't be an ordinary hound. He must be a 'Houn' Dawg' in the best sense of the word." The late Rev. W.C. Brooks entered his prize-winning blue tick coon hound, Smokey, in the contest. At halftime of the Mississippi State game, the dogs were lined up on the old cheerleaders' ramp at Neyland Stadium. Each dog was introduced and the student body cheered for their favorite. Smokey was the last hound introduced. When his name was called out, he barked.
The students cheered and Smokey threw his head back and howled again. This kept going and soon the whole stadium was in a roar and UT had found its mascot. The dog is a native breed of Tennessee and a line of dog used for hunting raccoons. The present Smokey is the nineth in a line of such canines and is appropriately called Smokey IX. Rev. Brooks of Knoxville supplied UT with the canines until his death in 1986 when his wife Mildred Brooks and family friends took over the care-taking role."