The history of Sammy the Bearkat

In 1959, the current Sammy Bearkat mascot character was born and began appearing in Sam Houston State sports events. Sammy’s two minute routine earned him a national championship of the mascots division at the 2005 United Spirit Association Collegiate National Championships. For a short period of time, Sammy had a partner alongside him. Samantha Bearkat was Sammy’s partner mascot for a period of time, but Samantha has since retired. One of Sammy’s current co-mascot is the Airkat Bearkat, the big balloon like mascot that bounces around at several sporting events.

Sammy was first introduced in 1959 at a basketball game against Austin College. President Dr. Harmon Lowman introduced Sammy and inducted him to the college. Since his arrival he has been to sporting events graduations as well various events in the mall.

Sammy walks through the crowd during home games and occasionally travels to away games. His new look has been made to be more child friendly as well as more athletic so that Sammy could do more athletic moves if necessary.

He is currently on his seventh makeover.

Follow along as The Houstonian chronicles the time line of Sammy for his 50th birthday.

What is a Bearkat?

The term “Bearkat” likely was given without a particular animal in mind. It was believed at one time that “bearkats” were kinkajous, small carnivorous animals that reside in jungle areas in South America, but this idea has recently been denied and claimed as false.

It is more likely that the “bearkat” nickname was given by an old saying around the times of its conception. The local saying “tough as a bearkat” was the likely reason behind the naming of Sam Houston State’s mascot.

Sammy’s Head

Sammy’s head has changed several times in the past fifty years. Originally his head was made out of paper mache with a sailor hat on top.

His next head debuted in the late 60’s and was a plastic fox head and again he was wearing a sailor hat.

In the early 80’s, a fluffier Sammy was introduced. Made of fur and a sweat shirt, this Sammy was more brown than orange.

Early 90’s Sammy was more of a dog than a bearkat. This was also the arrival time of Samantha.

The Sammy dog head was destroyed during a game when rain poured down on the mascot.

The last and current head was designed in the late 90’s. It debuted at halftime during a Stephen F. Austin basketball game.

The Sam Houston Ravens?

In the late 1940’s, then Sam Houston State University President Harmon Lowman attempted to change the Sam Houston State mascot from “Bearkats” to “Ravens”.

General Sam Houston’s Cherokee nickname was “raven”, thus bringing life to the idea of the change of the name.

Alumni were polled about the possible name change.

Historian Vernon Schuder reported that she had voted for “raven” but that “all those old Bearkats beat us out”.

The Original Mascot

Sam Houston State’s Athletic teams have been called “The Bearkats ” since 1923 when the Texas state legislature change the university’s name from Sam Houston Normal Institute to Sam Houston State Teachers College.

Before this name change in 1923, the name given to Sam Houston State varsity sports teams was “The Normals”.

For a brief period of time Tripod, a four -legged dog with one gimp leg was considered the unofficial mascot.

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