Bearcat nominated for Mascot Hall of Fame

The latest accolade for UC’s national champion mascot

The University of Cincinnati's Bearcat mascot has been nominated for the Mascot Hall of Fame’s 2023 class.

WLWT reported that Bearcat is one of 18 nominated mascots recognized for demonstrating a major impact on their sport, groundbreaking performances, a unique, fun and memorable character design and other criteria.

Earlier this year the Bearcat — and UC’s cheerleading team — became national champions at the 2023 College Cheerleading and Dance National Championship for the second year in a row. Previously, Bearcat was named 2009 Capital One Mascot of the Year.

Voting for the 2023 Mascot Hall of Fame class is open through May 27. You can vote once a day on the Mascot Hall of Fame website.

Who is behind the Bearcat?

The short answer: It’s a secret.

The long answer goes back to 1914, when the term first appeared in a campus newspaper. 

Cartoon from University News Nov 3, 1914 of Kentucky Wild Cat being chased by the Bear Cat by John "Paddy" Reece.

John "Paddy" Reece's 1914 newspaper cartoon was the first official use of the name "Bear Cats." Photo: UC Archives

The Bearcat was first depicted in an institutional logo in 1922, though it looked more like a grizzly bear than the character we know and love today. 

1922 UC logo with bear

This 1922 logo is the earliest on record with a "Bearcat" incorporated into an institutional logo. Photo: UC Archives

1950s bearcat mascot

Photo: UC Archives


Then Bearcat came to life, emerging as a mascot in the 1950s when a student began dressing up in costume at games and events.

Its style and design have evolved into the 21st century with its current iteration debuting in 2006.


Photo: Cincinnati Zoo/Twitter

UC also has a live bearcat mascot, Lucille the binturong, from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

A team of six to eight students — whose identities are secret — perform as the Bearcat at around 350 UC appearances and 150 community events each year.

Only when a Bearcat graduates can they reveal their identity — often by donning the Bearcat paws with their cap and gown at Commencement.

UC celebrates its 199th all-university Commencement, held in Nippert Stadium.

Bearcat mascot coach Chris Helmers at his 2018 UC graduation. Photo/Andrew Higley/ UC Marketing + Brand

Family Weekend events around campus. The marching band performs at a pep rally on Main Street.

Bearcat poses with fans at UC Family Weekend. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Featured image at top: Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

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