Not everyone wants lions and tigers and bears as their school mascot. Some high schools choose mascots that honor their local heritage, others have nicknames that just stuck.
Above, the mascot for Southwestern High in Piasa, Ill. marches in a parade Washington D.C. The school's mascot is the Piasa bird, a Native American dragon depicted in a painting on a cliff in the region where the school is located. The rock painting of the mythical monster was recorded in the diary of Father Jacques Marquette in 1673 when he was exploring the area. Marquette wrote the Piasa "was as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face like a man, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs."
A bird that devours men can be pretty intimidating as a mascot. Other mascots, maybe not so much, but their schools carry their nicknames with pride.
Here are some pretty unusual high-school mascots, culled from ShareRanks and USA Today's mascot contest.
The Appleknocker, depicted as a man with freckles wearing overalls, a flannel shirt, a straw hat, and chewing on a piece of straw, started as a derogatory nickname by other schools when Cobden first began competing in sports in the 1960s. The area is known for its apple industry. But when the "Amazing Appleknockers of '64" made it to the state basketball championships, the name stuck and is now a thing of pride.
According to the school's alumni association, sugar beet farming was a major industry in the valley when Jordan High School was founded. The school's students were dubbed "Beetdiggers" because most of them spent time helping to harvest the sugar beets.
Boiling Springs Bubblers
Boiling Springs, Penn.
Boiling Springs gets its name from the natural artesian well springs, pictured here, located in and around the town. One of the most prominent springs in the area is called the "Bubble," thus inspiring the mascot.
The name dates back to the 1933-34 basketball season, when the team members started wearing a rabbit's foot for good luck.
The mascot honors the art of cheese making in the area around Monroe. The town is home to the National Historic Cheese Making Center.
Before the days of mechanical harvesters, corn was pulled - or jerked - from the stalk, then shucked and tossed into a wagon. This was cornjerking. According to the Illinois High School Association, in the 1920s teams were often late to games because team members were still in the fields picking corn.
From 1910, Yuma High used the abandoned Yuma Territorial Prison for three years until the new school was built, according to the school's site. Teachers conducted classes in the cellblock area and the school held assemblies in what had been the prison hospital. When the school's football team played against Phoenix and unexpectedly won, the Phoenix team called the Yuma team "criminals," the name stuck, and the school still carries it with pride. Pictured is the prison, which is now a state park.
Carbon High Dinos
The mascot is a tribute to the dinosaur fossils that have been found in the area, according to USA Today. A Tyrannosaurus rex is their game mascot.
Poca High Dots
The town's name is Poca, so it was a no-brainer. The mascot is a mean-looking big red dot.
Key West Fighting Conchs
Key West, Fla.
Early settlers of Key West and its long-time residents are referred to as Conchs, according to the Conch Tour Train in Key West. In 1982, the city of Key West declared itself the Conch Republic in an act of protest against the U.S Border Patrol, which blockaded Highway 1, the only access to the key. The mayor said Key West would secede from the Union. The mayor led the Conch Republic Rebellion which, according to the tour site, lasted about one minute and was followed by a surrender to the U.S. Navy Admiral in Key West. The conch is a popular item in restaurants, fried or made into chowder. The shells are sold as souvenirs, pictured.
Effingham Flaming Hearts
According to the Herald Review, a city resident referred to Effingham as the "Heart of America" in a campaign to attract visitors to the city, though no one is quite sure where the "flaming" came from.
Harrison Golden Goblins
The Goblins name came from the school newspaper, first named The Goblin in 1926. The school's colors are blue and gold.
A resident of the town in the early 1700s manufactured a line of hats. When the post office opened in 1809 the town was officially called Hatborough. They are also sometimes called the Mad Hatters or the Top Hats.
There is more than one school that uses Hillbillies for a mascot, including Ozark High on Hillbilly Drive in Ozark, Ark., Fredonia High School in Fredonia, N.Y., and Verona High in Verona, N.J. None of them seem to know the history of the mascot. Verona's mascot was originally pictured with a bottle of moonshine and a shotgun, but was later redesigned with a dog and a fishing pole due to concerns of school violence and under-age drinking.
Coalinga Horned Toads
The central California town of Coalinga began hosting races of the wild reptiles back in 1933 and still holds its annual Horned Toad Derby. The school took it on as a mascot in 1938.
Northeast Dubois Jeeps
Northeast Dubois County, Indiana
Eugene the Jeep was a character with magical or supernatural abilities in the "Popeye" comic strip in the 1930s. He only said "Jeep, Jeep, Jeep." According to the school district's website, that was enough to win over a group of Northeast Dubois basketball players in 1936 who were tasked with choosing the school's mascot.
The Kewpie doll has been the mascot of the school for over a century, dating back to the 1913-14 basketball season when the school secretary placed her Kewpie doll in the center of the court for good luck, and the entire game was played without the fragile doll breaking. The team won, and it became their good-luck mascot.
Polo High School wasn't always known as the Marcos, according to USA Today, which held a mascot contest in 2013. They used to be the Apostles, but in 1939 the school held a vote and Marcos won with the official mascot depicting the explorer.
According to the NY Post, town lore traces the mascot's origin to a local reporter who was impressed by the school's not-very-tall basketball team beating larger opponents nearly a century ago. The school has faced public pressure to drop the nickname. There's also the Putnam County Midgets in Unionville, Mo., which some say was so named because it was a small rural team.
The National Federation of State High School Associations explains that the Nimrod mascot represents an outdoorsman and has biblical roots - Nimrod was a mighty hunter and the son of Cush and great-grandson of Noah. Watersmeet, presumably where the waters meet, sits on the Ontonagon River near the Ottawa National Forest and hunting is popular in the area. The basketball team's unusual name has gotten them in commercials on ESPN and the subject of a documentary, "Nimrod Nation."
Centralia High School and community were hit hard by the Great Depression, the basketball team wore mismatched uniforms to a state tournament. A Chicago sportswriter said "they looked like a bunch of orphans but they sure could play basketball," according to USA Today. The girls' teams are called the Annies.
Camas High Papermakers
The Papermakers mascot is a humanized mechanical paper-rolling machine, which commemorates the town's founding industry, the production of paper goods at the Georgia Pacific paper mill.
The Rapp Brothers Pottery Works opened in the early 1920s in Morton, Ill., hence the Morton High Potters. The mascot is a guy with a pot for a head.
The Freeport Pretzels
Freeport is known as "Pretzel City, USA" due to the convoluted manner in which the streets were laid out in its early history.
They're fast. Enough said. There are also Speedgirls.
Tarpon Springs Spongers
Tarpon Springs, Fla.
The mascot reflects the town's history of sponge diving. This statue on the waterfront commemorates the local sponge divers. The mascot features an antique diving helmet.
In the early 1900s both potatoes and prunes were big crops in Ridgefield. They went with potatoes. The name Spudder has been the symbol of the school ever since.
A swather is a farm implement that mows down hay or grain. The swather mascot arose around 1970, to pay tribute to the agricultural equipment company that plays an important part in the town's economy.
New Braunfels High School Unicorns
New Braunfels, Texas
The unicorn was originally taken from the coat of arms of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, as a nod to the city's German roots. It was later discovered that the coat of arms depicted a lion instead, but the mascot stuck, according to Keller Williams Realty in New Braunfels.
Brewer High Witches
According to the city of Brewer, the origin of the name is unknown. Early yearbooks show that the school's teams had no mascot at first, for a brief period they were called the Tigers, the in the mid-1930s Witches just "showed up."