Top Traditions at the University of Kansas

University of Kansas Skyline PaintingFramewoods Gallery is known in Lawrence, Kansas, for selling KU (The University of Kansas) memorabilia.

What are some KU traditions?

First, there’s the famous Jayhawk, the beloved mascot for KU teams. What is a Jayhawk? It’s a mythical bird that was born out of the struggles of early Kansas settlers. Back in the 1800s, pioneers made their way to what’s now known as Kansas. In 1849, a group called themselves the “Jayhawkers of ‘49.” The mythical bird is a combination of a blue jay (noisy, quarrelsome, known for robbing other nests) and the sparrow hawk (quiet and stealthy). What was the message of this? “Don’t turn your back on this bird!” The name stuck for those who wanted Kansas to be a free state that didn’t agree with slavery, which it became in 1861. Lawrence, Kansas, where KU was founded, was a free state stronghold. KU football players took the Jayhawk name in 1890.

Next, there’s the fight song, “I’m a Jayhawk.” It was written in 1912 and became popular in the 1920s. Most recently, in 2010, the song’s lyrics were updated to reflect rivals in the Big 12 Conference. The first verse goes:

“Talk about the Sooners, Cowboys and the Bears,

Aggies and the Tiger and his tail.

Talk about the Wildcats, and the Cyclone boys,

But I’m the bird to make ’em weep and wail.”

Finally, in addition to the fight song, there’s the Rock Chalk Chant. This is a college cheer started by E.H.S. Bailey, a professor of chemistry. Originally, the chant went, “Rah, Rah, Jay Hawk, K.U,” repeated three times. An English professor suggested that “Rah, Rah” be replaced with the words “Rock Chalk” since it rhymed with Jayhawk. Where did “Rock Chalk” come from? Well, it’s symbolic of the chalky limestone formations found on Mount Oread, the hill in Lawrence, Kansas, where KU stands!