Sam Houston Normal Institute's athletics teams were nicknamed the Normals from their formation in the early years of the twentieth century until 1923,when the Texas Legislature changed the name of Sam Houston Normal Institute to Sam Houston State Teachers College. The term "Normal" now outdated, attention was turned to finding another nickname for the teams.
University lore says that the then-popular rallying phrase "tough as a bearkat" sparked the creation of the new nickname, and since the animal in the phrase was "thought to be more mythical than real," the spelling - which differentiated between "bearcats", "bear cats", and "bearkats" - was settled upon as "bearkat".
The visual representation of the Bearkat has changed since its debut in 1923. Early images focused on either the bear or cat aspects - or hybrid of the two - or even a binturong or a kinkajou. Three live kinkajous graced campus at seperate times in their role of a live mascot.
Buildings and places named for the mascot include:
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