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What’s a Nittany Lion?

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Students cheering at Penn State football gameNittany Lion Shrine statueBeaver Stadium, full to capacity, Penn State Blue Band marching on field, fireworks overhead
Of course you know what a lion is, but do you know what a Nittany lion is?

The animal:

A Nittany lion is a mountain lion or cougar. It’s that simple. Mountain lions roamed the State College area until 1880. At this time the remaining mountain lions were moved out of Pennsylvania. People report still seeing mountain lions on occasion but this is extremely rare.

The name:

The history of the name “Nittany” (or “Nita-Nee”) is a little unclear.  Many say it comes from a Native American word meaning “single mountain.” Others say it is named after a legendary Native American woman said to be from this area. No matter the origin, you will see this name all over town. There is a mountain on the edge of Happy Valley called “Mount Nittany,” a great place to hike and enjoy the beautiful view of the valley below. On a football Saturday you can hear the crowds cheering from Penn State’s Beaver stadium from on top of Mount Nittany. It’s also a great place to watch State College’s annual fireworks on July 4th rated in the top 3 best fireworks shows in the country!

The symbol: 

The Nittany Lion is one of the oldest mascots in American collegiate athletics. There has been a Nittany lion mascot for our athletic events since 1921. If you see the Nittany Lion at a Penn State match, feel free to say “hello,” give him a “high five” or have your picture taken with him. The Nittany Lion symbol can be seen all across our campus. It is the most recognizable image associated with Penn State. There is a shrine (a statue in a special area on campus) that is very popular. Students, alumni, families, and visitors of all kinds pose next to or on top of the statue to have their picture taken. Be prepared to wait if you’d like to have your picture taken during a busy weekend such as graduation!