Why Is The University Of Kansas Called Jayhawk?

We look at what a Jayhawk is and why the University of Kansas is called the Jayhawks ahead of the Final Four game between KU and Villanova.

The Final Four has arrived, and March Madness (despite the fact that it is now April) is heating up. The Jayhawks are the only remaining No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and they face No. 2 Villanova in the first Final Four matchup tonight. Fans are wondering what a Jayhawk is and how it relates to the University of Kansas ahead of the game.

Jayhawk Game (Source: Pinterest)

What Is Jayhawk?

The University of Kansas is home to the Jayhawk, a mythical bird that is unfortunately not a real-life creature. The Jayhawk’s origins are unknown, but Dr. F.W. Blackmar, the first Dean of the Graduate School, attempted to explain it in 1926.

He claims the creature is a cross between two birds: the blue jay, a noisy, quarrelsome creature known for robbing nests, and the sparrow hawk, a stealthy hunter who is also a brave and cautious fighter.

Why Is The University Of Kansas Called Jayhawk?

So, what does this have to do with Kansas? The Jayhawk, on the other hand, is rooted in the historical struggles of Kansas settlers. It was coined in 1849 by a group of California-bound travelers passing through Kansas known as Jayhawkers.

During the 1850s, however, the Kansas Territory was a battleground between those who wanted a state where slavery would be legal and those who wanted a free state.

Tensions between opposing factions were immediate, resulting in the Kansas-Missouri Border War and several other skirmishes and battles. Anti-slavery supporters were known as Jayhawkers, while pro-slavery supporters were known as Bushwhackers or Border Ruffians.

However, some historical sources claim that ruffians on both sides were once referred to as Jayhawkers. When Kansas was admitted as a free state in 1861, the term “Jayhawkers” stuck to the ‘free staters.’ Over time, it became a patriotic symbol synonymous with the zealous people who helped establish Kansas as a free state.

The legendary bird “appeared” in a cheer during a University of Kansas athletic event in 1886 – the famous Rock Chalk chant. When the first KU football players took the field in 1890, it was natural to refer to them as Jayhawkers.

There Have Been Many Changes In The Logo

The Jayhawk has gone through numerous iterations over the years. In 1912, Henry Maloy, a student newspaper cartoonist, created a memorable version of the Jayhawk. He outfitted it with shoes, presumably for kicking opponents.

There have been more solemn-looking birds since then. Gene “Yogi” Williams opened the Jayhawk’s eyes and beak in 1941, giving it a tense expression.

Student Harold D. Sandy’s 1946 design of a smiling Jayhawk, on the other hand, has survived to this day. The KU Bookstores purchased Sandy’s design and copyrighted it in 1947. It is still one of the country’s most well-known and distinctive collegiate mascots.

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