Arts and Entertainment

The Bearcat: Do you know the real story?

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The University of Cincinnati, with its various colleges and locations around the area, offers multitudes of academic programs. Students come from all walks of life and chose different paths for themselves. However, one thing unites students, faculty, and staff into one common force: The Bearcat.

Almost everyone can identify with the unity the Bearcat symbol brings as it can be found everywhere on campus. Although an oddly specific animal to have as a mascot, the Bearcat was chosen purely by chance. On October 31, 1914, UC was playing the University of Kentucky in a football game and tensions were high. One particularly popular football player at the time, Leonard Baehr, holds the true namesake of the now famous mascot.

old photo of football player in position

According to UC Magazine, cheerleader Norman Lyon famously shouted, “They may be Wildcats, but we have a ‘Baehr-Cat’ on our side,” after a frustrated shout from Baehr himself rang across the field. On November 3, a few days after the triumphant win, Paddy Reece, who worked for the student newspaper and loved drawing cartoons, decided to commemorate this moment with a sketch on the front page.

bear stands on hind legs in front of letter "c"

The sketch depicts a “Bear Cat” chasing a Wildcat ferociously, and this became the first ever printed version of the name.  As the years passed, the use of the nickname stayed in circulation, because it was a favorite among students. But it wasn’t until 1922 that a logo with the mascot came into view. A snarling brown bear in front of a massive letter “C” became the new symbol of the university.

As the bearcat has evolved through the years, it has adopted cat-like features, and more cartoonish colors; red, black, and white accompany the wide-grinned, loveable, modern-day Bearcat we all know. Additionally, the Cincinnati Zoo has allowed its bearcats in captivity to represent UC at games and events since the 1980s! This loveable creature has not only been a part of the UC community, but the Greater Cincinnati community as everyone can visit a real-life version of the proud mascot.

sketch of a bearcat

Next time you see Bearcat paraphernalia around campus, remember the history of this great icon we all know and love, it has come a long way from its beginning in 1914. 

About Hannah Roberts

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