The moment you see a crimson and blue mythical bird, you will surely think of the Kansas Jayhawks, as it is the symbol for the University of Kansas (KU). But chances are, you do not have any idea what a Jayhawk is and how it came to be the mascot for the university. In 1848, the Jayhawk, which is a combination of the blue jay and the sparrow hawk, was used to represent the struggles that the settlers of Kansas were facing at that time. For a long while, a Jayhawk was a thug known for looting and attacking the settlements. But the meaning of the word Jayhawk changed when Kansas Governor Charles Robinson used the Independent Mounted Kansas Jayhawks to name a regiment that fought during the civil war. Surely enough, by the end of the conflict Jayhawk became Kansas’ symbol of honor, courage, and a Free State. In 1890, the first KU football players were called the Jayhawkers.
Another trivia that Kansas Jayhawks fans may not be aware of is the original school colors of the University of Kansas. For the longest time, crimson and blue are the colors that the Jayhawks used. But did you know that maize and sky blue, which are the state colors of Michigan, were the original colors picked by the Board of Regents in 1860 to represent the university? However, in mid 1880s, the crimson color, which is the color of Harvard, was adopted as an athletic color to honor Col John J Cook, who graduated from Harvard, because of his substantial donation for the creation of the athletic field at Kansas University. The sky blue, on the other hand, was changed to Yale blue because the KU faculty members that came from Yale did not want to be outdone by Harvard, so they insisted on changing the KU’s shade of blue. Hence, in 1896 the Athletic Board of the University of Kansas adopted the crimson and blue as the official athletic colors of the university.
Aside from the university colors, the mascot of the Kansas Jayhawks also underwent so many changes throughout the years. Henry Maloy, the student paper’s cartoonist, was the one who gave the mascot shoes and created the first memorable representation of the Jayhawk in 1912. According to him, the Jayhawk should wear shoes in order to “kick” the opponents of KU. The Jayhawk also changed from looking somber to vicious, complete with sharp talons in the next 20 to 30 years. However, in 1946 the smiling Jayhawk created by Harold D Sandy became the official mascot of the KU. In fact, this design was copyrighted in 1947.
As many people know, the University of Kansas is home to many popular athletes in various fields for decades. Among the most popular Kansas Jayhawkers that made it to the KU hall of fame include Al Oerter, who won a gold medal for discus throwing event in four consecutive Olympic games; John Riggins, an NFL running back hall -of- famer and a Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XVII; and Steve Renko, a California Angels Major League Baseball pitcher.