The history of the Willamette University Bearcat mascot.
What is a Bearcat?
The word first appeared in print circa 1889 as a synonym for the giant panda. "Bearcat" is a simple translation of the Chinese word for panda-xiong mao-which means "bear-cat." There is no definitive example of what a bearcat actually is. At Willamette when someone refers to the bearcat as an actual animal, they are usually referring to the Binturong. However, Blitz (the costumed mascot) more closely resembles the Red Panda.
Blitz has been the Willamette University mascot since 2001. In 2009 the Blitz costume was replaced and in 2011 the mascot program went through a revitalization. Blitz now appears over 100 times per academic year. He is seen around campus, in the Salem community, and even at the Portland Trail Blazers, Winterhawks, and Timbers games.
The Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens ("shining cat"), which is a mostly herbivorous mammal, specializes as a bamboo feeder. It is slightly larger than a domestic cat. The Red Panda is endemic to the Himalayas. There is an estimated population of less than 2,500 mature individuals. Their population continues to decline due to habitat fragmentation.
The Binturong (Arctictis binturong), which is a species of the family Viverridae, which includes the civets and genets. It is neither a bear nor a cat, and the real meaning of the original name is lost, as the local language that gave it is extinct. Its natural habitat is in trees of forest canopy in rainforest of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Palawan Island.
Willamette has had two official mascots in our history. The first bearcat, Barney, was around for a very long time. Although the mascot suit changed slightly over the years, Barney was more "frumpy" and, at times, had characteristics of a nutria. Barney was around from the late 40's to the early 90's. Barney went to the national championship football game in 1997 and never returned to the university. After a few years absence ASWU initiated a committee to help revitalize the mascot. They couldn't find the suit to match Barney so they had students vote on the name and design of the new suit. Students voted for Blitz and the current version of our suit was born in 2001.