The Jayhawks of Kansas University beat the Cornhuskers of Nebraska yesterday. The score was 64 to 54. We can all figure out what a cornhusker is – a farmer who picks and shucks corn. Question is, what do you know about Jayhawks?
Jayhawks are not real birds. The name is an amalgam, a joining of a Blue Jay and Sparrow Hawk. A Blue Jay is a noisy, aggressive bird with an extensive diet. They have been known to steal and eat eggs and hatchlings from other birds’ nests. A Sparrow Hawk is a quick and stealthy hunter that preys on other birds. The Sparrow Hawk is so quick it can snatch a bird in mid-flight. The imagined offspring of a Blue Jay and a Sparrow Hawk would be a formidable bird indeed.
In the late 1840’s the term “jayhawk” was used to describe the lawless factions causing chaos in the territory of Kansas. The clash was over whether Kansas should become a Free State or a Slave State. Both sides tried to intimidate the other by looting, rustling cattle, arson and straight out murder. The name Jayhawk eventually stuck to the Free State advocates. The town of Lawrence, where Kansas University was founded, was a Free State advocate stronghold and so the University took the Jayhawk as its mascot.
When you think about the Jayhawks of history, I don’t think the Cornhuskers ever had a chance.