Wherever Rufus the Bobcat goes, energy is sure to follow. Whether he is jumping on the sidelines celebrating Ohio athletics or simply strolling around campus, Rufus’ enthusiasm sparkles. However, this spritely attitude is nothing new. Rufus is turning 62 this week.
To celebrate, the athletics department is hosting Rufus’ birthday party prior to the first football game of the season, this Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. Students who come early to join Rufus’ celebration can enjoy airbrush tattoos, caricature artists and many inflatables.
Ryan Parkes, a sophomore studying astrophysics, said he was excited at the idea of a birthday party for Rufus, but wished the event had been more widely publicized.
“I feel like there should be flyers everywhere about that,” Parkes said.
Jenna Skidmore, a freshman studying media arts production, said the celebration sounded like fun.
“I will definitely be going to that if there are glitter tattoos,” Skidmore said, although it should be noted the tattoos will be airbrushed.
Skidmore has plans to attend the first football game of the semester. The game is “black out” themed, with students encouraged to dress entirely in the color black in support of the Ohio football team.
“I'm definitely excited,” Skidmore said. “I feel like football games are a big part of college culture and community, so I'm excited to go be a part of that.”
While Rufus’ furry face is now attached to most OU billboards, website pages and letters, long before emails existed to attach Rufus’ likeness to OU did not have a mascot. According to a video produced by Ohio University in 2016, originally the school was not even named Ohio University, simply referred to as Ohio, or “the Green and White.”
According to the video, OU asked the student body in 1925 for suggestions as to what OU should be referred to as, with the winning proposition renaming the athletic teams. Hal Roland won the grand $10 prize accompanying the contest with his suggestion of “Bobcats'' and the name has remained.
In 1940, a man named Bob Crosby donated a live bobcat to the university. Crosby was a member of a popular swing band, The Bobcats, and had received the animal as a gift from a fan. The cat, named Omen, weighed 40 pounds and quickly became unsociable, and was eventually saved from threats of stuffing by a student who convinced the Cleveland Zoo to take Omen in.
The first Bobcat mascot didn’t emerge until OU’s Homecoming in 1960, and it has undergone varying costume designs since its origins. The mascot marks September 5, 1960 as its official birth date, and was first redesigned for its 21st birthday in 1981.
Occasionally, “Mr. Bobcat” was joined by the “BobKitten,” a female mascot donning a cheerleading outfit and a cat-shaped head. Traditionally, male students were selected to portray the bobcat, a pattern that ended in 1995 when a female student won the try-outs, renaming “Mr. Bobcat” to simply “Bobcat.”
The name “Rufus” is remarkably modern for the mascot, as a 2006 Post article explained the university was seeking to update the mascot. The article, written by Rick Rouan, explained OU was seeking to update the mascot following the approval from several university groups for sketches of the costume’s newest look. The bobcat was finally going to get a name, chosen once again by contest.
"When we get to the end, we hope that everyone is satisfied with the look and the name because it will last for a while once we've established this," Dan Hauser, associate athletic director for marketing and promotions in 2006, said in the previous Post article.
The name Rufus was selected because it worked on multiple levels. The name was an homage to “Rufus Putnum,” who served as a trustee from 1804 to 1824, and recognized the binomial name of the bobcat: Lynx Rufus.
“The school is 218 years old,” Parkes said. “It makes sense that the mascot would have a birthday since the school has a birthday. And it's a good way to track time about how long the school has actually been here.”
Those wanting to enjoy the birthday party should arrive outside Peden Stadium in advance of the 6 p.m. kickoff. Students, who get into the football game free of charge, are also invited to remain after the game for fireworks.
Skidmore said the event was a great way to kick off the 2022 football season.
“I think it's perfect timing that his birthday is on our first game,” Skidmore said. “I think it'll be really exciting.”