The Jayhawk in History and Legend

Any member of the University of Kansas community, present or past, automatically becomes a Jayhawk. What does this popular mythical figure really mean? The colorful bird, which does not exist in nature, has a friendly appearance today. In sports it can still represent a fierce rivalry, but the Jayhawk is not violent.

In the past, the story was different. In previous decades the Jayhawk’s countenance underwent numerous transformations. There is evidence of another kind of Jayhawk, a militant and even vengeful one. When the image of this bird was first adopted by students of the university in the 1880s, the idea of the Jayhawk was combined with the sound of the words rock chalk (the soft limestone visible on the side of Mount Oread). The combined sounds created an appealing chant for all occasions. About thirty years earlier, in the 1850s, there was also much talk about the Jayhawks, but that had nothing to do with chants, cheers, or the rivalry in sports.

The Jayhawkers and Bleeding Kansas

History of the Jayhawk Timeline