The story behind each Kansas Jayhawk logo

Photo courtesy of KU Brand Center

The Kansas Jayhawk is one of the most recognizable logos in all of college sports. Given the logo's 100+ year history and the school's rich history in college sports, it's easy to see why a blue and red mythical bird stands out.

So what is a Jayhawk anyway? The name "Jayhawk" actually comes from the Kansas Jayhawker militias during the American Civil War, and Clint Eastwood made the term famous in his movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

I'm sure you're saying to yourself, "That makes sense. But what about the mythical bird?" It's actually a mystery; even though later connections were drawn, the original idea is unknown. But we know when and how the first one was created, so let's get into it.

The first depiction of the Jayhawk as a bird was a drawing by Henry Maloy, a Kansas student, in the early 1900s. Maloy was a cartoonist for the student newspaper, which you can see come through in this version. Legend says that he gave the Jayhawk shoes for kicking opponents.

The University's first-ever logo change ever was to make the Jayhawk look more realistic. This was definitely more of a traditional logo, with the bird perched on the KU monogram. We still see the bright blue and red though on this mythical creature.


While in 1920, the school went more traditional, in '23, they went right back to cartoon style. This Jayhawk was a bit more duck-like, complete with shoes and a blue jersey. This version was designed by Jimmy O'Byron and George Hollingbery, both sophomores at the time.


It was time to get fierce in Kansas. The color schemes all remained the same with the blue body and red head, but this Jayhawk was a profile of the bird, walking to the left.

KU fans often refer to this version as the "Angry Jawhawk," This logo started to become much closer to what KU fans recognize today. You'll also notice the "KU" has been changed to white to stand out more.

The most notable thing you see here, is the logo flipped from left-facing to right facing. Created by student Hal Sandy, he submitted this design to a school contest to redesign the Jayhawk and won. At the time, the school felt the design was a bit too aggresive. His "smiling Jayhawk" got him $50 and the bragging rights to one of the most famous collegiate logos of all time.


A subtle redesign as the "KU" font was changed to look a bit more elegant. A really nice but small change.


Let us know which is your favorite in the comments!

Shop Kansas


  • Trevin

    Warhawk forver.

  • Sean

    Give me the 1923 version. Like Sad Husky, I am a sucker for a melancholy mascot.

  • Mike

    I love that the modern version of the logo that debuted in the 1940s (I assume unintentionally) somewhat mirrors the national mood of the time. 1941: The US enters WWII, and we’re angry! 1946: WWII is over, and we’re happy!

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.