What's the history of the Jayhawk?
The term "Jayhawk" was originally a term used by pro-slavery Kansans to describe Free State supporters during the "Bleeding Kansas" period in the 1850s. Over time, "Jayhawk" lost its war-like connotations and Kansans came to embrace the title as a term of endearment.
The bird itself is mythical, and the name probably comes from two birds common to the area, the sparrow hawk and the bluejay. The Jayhawk became the mascot for the University (before that it was the Bulldog, among others), when Eureka, Kansas student Henry Maloy created the first cartoon in 1912. There have been 7 different Jayhawks over the years, and the current "smiling" incarnation was created in 1946.