The University of Louisville’s mascot, Louie the Cardinal, is said to have been hatched in 1913 after the wife of Liberal Arts Dean John Patterson suggested the athletics department adopt the state bird as its own — sorry, Wildcats.
However, the first recorded sighting of the bird didn’t appear until 1953.
The story goes
In 1953, three cheerleaders asked the home economics department to make a cardinal head for cheerleader T. Lee Adams to wear with his red uniform sweater. Enter the first iteration of the mascot — which was then just a black bird head with a yellow beak.
This version was short-lived, but in 1958 the marching band flew Louie home for good. This time in a handmade paper mache costume.
A bird of many feathers
Here’s a timeline of Louie’s look through the years.
1958-1960 | UofL drum major Dick Dyson is the first student to portray Louie in a full costume made of paper mache created by students at the Speed School of Engineering.
1967-1971 | Louie’s look gets an upgrade + features a round belly, large yellow feet, and long, red fake fur.
1990s | The bird head is changed to more closely resemble the printed logo and Louie loses his belly in favor of shoulder pads for a more athletic physique.
Today | A toothsome, fighting smile spreads across Louie’s beak + his figure is redesigned to be even slimmer for mobility — he also switches out his jersey to fit whichever sporting event he’s supporting.
See the different eras of Louie in this documentary about Louisville’s beloved mascot.
Need a little team spirit? Book Louie for your event.
Bonus: Learn why Louie the Cardinal has teeth.