The History of Cecil the Sagehen

The History of Cecil the Sagehen

The history of the Pomona College mascot and nickname is a slightly more complex matter. As mentioned earlier, the college competed under a variety of names through 1913, when the nickname "Sage Hen" first appeared in a November 29, issue of The Student Life:

"Once again the Oxy Tiger wanders from his lair and comes to peaceful, peaceful Claremont with intent to murder. The Sage Hen will fight -- on the field. On the campus she is entirely amicable."
~ E. H. Spoor '15
Sports Editor,
The Student Life


From 1914 thru 1917, the nickname "Hun" and "Sagehen" were used arbitrarily. Beginning in 1918 and continuing to the present, the Sagehen became the only symbol of Pomona and later Pomona-Claremont, and Pomona-Pitzer athletics.

What is a Sagehen, and how did it become our mascot? The first question is far easier to answer than the second one.

The Sage Grouse, and more specifically, the Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a large ground-dwelling bird that can reach up to 30 inches in length and two feet in height. It is distinguished by its long pointed tail. The Greater Sage Grouse is an omnivore and eats mainly insects and sagebrush, hence its name. It is unique for its fierce loyalty to a specific area, and thus its livelihood can be completely reliant on the existence of sagebrush. 

There are several stories regarding the origin of our beloved Cecil the Sagehen. The most prevalent is that a reporter while intending to refer to the Pomona athletic teams as sage (meaning wise) Huns, accidentally typed hens. While this story is frequently retold, this seems both unlikely and highly coincidental. Considering the relative distance from the "u" and the "e", and taking into consideration editorial supervision as well as the actual existence of Sage Hens in the southern California, this seems to be no more than a myth. However Pomona College came to be known as the Sagehens, it seems especially fitting considering the bird's origins and originality.

The first reference to "Cecil" is made in the 1946 Metate (Pomona College's yearbook), and there have been several incarnations since that time.