The University of Cincinnati Bearcats were born on Oct. 31, 1914. The occasion was a football game with the University of Kentucky Wildcats, a star UC player named Baehr, a creative cheerleader and a talented cartoonist.
During the second half of that hard-fought football game, UC cheerleader Norman "Pat" Lyon, building on the efforts of fullback Leonard K. "Teddy" Baehr, created the chant: "They may be Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side."
The crowd took up the cry: "Come on, Baehr-cat!"
Cincinnati prevailed, 14-7, and the victory was memorialized in a cartoon published on the front page of the student newspaper, the weekly University News, on Nov. 3. The cartoon, by John "Paddy" Reece, depicted a bedraggled Kentucky Wildcat being chased by a creature labeled "Cincinnati Bear Cats".
The name stuck, but not immediately. Following Teddy Baehr's graduation in 1916, the name dropped out of use, at least in print, for a few years. On Nov. 15, 1919, Cincinnati played at Tennessee. Cincinnati Enquirer writer Jack Ryder's dispatch on the game was the first time that the major media called UC's teams "Bearcats." From then on, the university's teams were regularly called Bearcats.
What is a bearcat?
The word first appeared in print circa 1889 as a synonym for the giant panda. "Bearcat" is a simple translation of the Chinese word for panda-xiong mao-which means "bear-cat".
By 1895, naturalist H.N. Ridley reported that the binturong-a large cat from Malaysia-was known as the "bear-cat". There is a binturong at the Cincinnati Zoo which frequents UC games.
UC's athletic teams sport a logo in which the letter "C" has been converted into a paw. The logo is a federally registered trademark of the University of Cincinnati and may not be used for any commercial or noncommercial purposes without written permission of the University of Cincinnati Licensing Program (513-556-3483).