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Jayhawk

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The Kansas Jayhawk

The Kansas Jayhawk appears at a 2005 NCAA Tournament game in Oklahoma City.

Getty Images / Ronald Martinez
Definition: College basketball fans are familiar with the Kansas Jayhawk -- a big blue bird with a red head and yellow beak. But you won't find that particular species in any of James Audobon's illustrations...

The first group to take the name "Jayhawkers" may have been a party traveling from Illinois to California as part of the gold rush of the 1840s, taking the name from different species of birds they observed along the way. The name was later adopted by abolitionist militias operating in pre-statehood Kansas, and then by a Civil War cavalry regiment.

Today, "Jayhawker" refers to any native of Kansas... and, of course, to the University of Kansas athletic teams.

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