Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student


The Indiana Hoosiers’ mascot journey


Indiana University does not lack symbols: the iconic trident, the historic Sample Gates and the picturesque red clocks adorning IU websites and advertisements. But there is the definitive absence of a symbol in the form of a mascot — a figure to represent the famed Hoosiers. 

Indiana is not devoid of effort, however, for this to change. Throughout the 20th century, a push for a physical mascot to serve as the image of IU spurred many suggestions and some short-term solutions. 

The string of temporary mascots started with an owl in 1908 (Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, Hoosiers!) and was shortly followed by a raccoon in 1909. Then-athletic trainer “Bernie” Bernstein’s toddler son represented Indiana in 1912, and a golden eagle nicknamed Jim Watson served a stint in 1916. Lack of support from students and fans alike put an end to their brief mascot careers.  

Two dogs stole the hearts of Hoosiers, with a collie serving as IU’s mascot in 1935 and a fraternity bulldog named Ox almost earning the job in 1959. Ox belonged to the Theta Chi house, but didn’t quite make the cut to represent the university.  

After over 40 years of failed attempts, IU adopted a promising figure: the bison. An animal once native to Bloomington and showcased on the Indiana state seal, the bison was voted by the student senate to serve as the official mascot in 1965.  

Around this time, Nick’s English Hut also chose a bison to serve as the icon for its business. Alas, its use of the bison withstood the test of time, while IU’s phased out after four years. While the mascot was popular, obtaining a live bison for the sidelines was not an option; and the costume was so hot and restrictive no student wanted to step up and wear it. 

Since the discontinuation of the bison, some Hoosiers continue to advocate for a mascot. After all, it’s easier to answer the frequently asked question, “What is a Hoosier?” when there’s something to physically attribute it to.  

Theories about the origin of the term Hoosiers referring to people in Indiana are plentiful, with everyone from a visitor, a contractor and a poet having said to hold responsibility for coining the term. The first use of the word at IU occurred in 1923, when the football team was nicknamed the “Scrapping Hoosiers.” 

While the history of the Hoosiers is somewhat shrouded in folklore, there is no lack of pride in the school and teams bearing that name — with or without a mascot.

Get stories like this in your inbox