How Did Kansas Jayhawks Get Their Name?

The Fascinating Origin of the Kansas Jayhawks

How Did Kansas Jayhawks Get Their Name?

The Birth of the Jayhawk

The term "Jayhawk" was probably coined around 1848. It combines two birds—the blue jay, known for its noisy and quarrelsome nature, and the sparrow hawk, a quiet and stealthy hunter. The message is clear: Don't turn your back on this bird.

Historical Struggles and the Jayhawk

The origin of the Jayhawk is deeply rooted in the historic struggles of Kansas settlers. During the 1850s, the Kansas Territory was a battleground between those wanting a state where slavery would be legal and abolitionists committed to a free state. The term "Jayhawk" was used to describe the 'free staters' when Kansas was admitted as a free state in 1861.

The Jayhawk in the Civil War

During the Civil War, the Jayhawk evolved from a ruffian image to a patriotic symbol. Kansas Governor Charles Robinson raised a regiment called the Independent Mounted Kansas Jayhawks. By the end of the war, Jayhawks were synonymous with the impassioned people who made Kansas a Free State.

Evolution of the Jayhawk Mascot

Over the years, the Jayhawk mascot has undergone several design changes. From a more somber bird perched on a KU monogram to a duck-like Jayhawk, and finally to the smiling Jayhawk we know today, designed by Harold D. Sandy in 1946.

Kansas Jayhawks Merchandise

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