The Nittany Lion mascot at the 2007 season opener
|University||Pennsylvania State University|
The Nittany Lion is the mascot of the Penn State Nittany Lions—the athletic teams of the Pennsylvania State University, located in University Park, Pennsylvania, USA. It is an eastern mountain lion, the "Nittany" forename referring to the local Mount Nittany, which overlooks the university.
The mascot was the creation of Penn State senior H. D. "Joe" Mason in 1907. While on a 1904 trip to Princeton University, Mason had been embarrassed that Penn State did not have a mascot. Mason did not let that deter him: he fabricated the Nittany Lion on the spot and proclaimed that it would easily defeat the Princeton Bengal tiger. The Lion's primary means of attack against the Tiger would be its strong right arm, capable of slaying any foes (this is now traditionally exemplified through cumulative one-armed push-ups after the team scores a touchdown). Upon returning to campus, he set about making his invention a reality. In 1907, he wrote in the student publication The Lemon:
Every college the world over of any consequence has a college emblem of some kind—all but The Pennsylvania State College . . .. Why not select for ours the king of beasts—the Lion!! Dignified, courageous, magnificent, the Lion allegorically represents all that our College Spirit should be, so why not 'the Nittany Mountain Lion'? Why cannot State have a kingly, all-conquering Lion as the eternal sentinel?
Eastern mountain lions had roamed on nearby Mount Nittany until the 1880s. The origin of the name "Mount Nittany" is obscure, the most commonly accepted explanation being that it is derived of Native American words (loosely pronounced as "neet-a-nee"), named after the subspecies of cougars that roamed the mountain, or "single mountain"—a protective barrier against the elements. The "original" Nittany Lion can be seen in the Penn State All-Sports Museum. It is the only known mounted eastern mountain lion. It was killed in Susquehanna County by Samuel Brush in 1856. According to a July 1992 article in National Geographic by Maurice Hornocker titled "Learning to Live with Mountain Lions", "Courthouse records from Centre County, Pennsylvania, show that one local hunter killed 64 lions between 1820 and 1845. During those 25 years an estimated 600 cats were killed in that county alone."
There is a song played during sporting events on campus entitled "The Nittany Lion". Many fans know this song as "Hail to the Lion," even though that is not technically the name of the song.