The Definition of a Bruin

The UCLA mascot has a storied history.

The UCLA Bruin
The UCLA Bruin raises his arm in celebration. Getty Images / David Taylor

If you have you ever followed college sports, chances are you have heard of the UCLA Bruins. But what is a Bruin? Sure, you've probably seen the mascot running around the basketball court or the football field, but you may not know what the Bruin represents. Keep reading for more information on this famous college mascot.


A "Bruin" is an archaic term for bear. At one point it referred specifically to the brown bear -- Ursos Arctos. In today's usage, the term can refer to any type of bear but is probably used in reference to sports teams far more often than actual animals -- most notably the UCLA Bruins and the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League.

So now you know that a Bruin is another term for a bear. But why don't those sports teams refer to themselves as the UCLA Bears or the Boston Bears? You may think it's just due to the fact that "Bruins" sounds better and more unique, but that's not correct. The mascot actually has a long and storied history.

Bruins History

The bear has been a symbol of California dating back to the 1840s when it was used on the flag of the California republic. As such, two of California's biggest state universities use bears as mascots -- the UCLA Bruin and the Cal Bear.

Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, also calls its sports teams the Bruins. But the UCLA version has more championships, so he gets his picture on this page.

The UCLA Bruins

The UCLA Bruin is one of the most famous of all university and professional sports team mascots, and there's a good reason for that. The school has more than 100 NCAA championships. In men's sports alone, UCLA has more than 70 championships, including 11 in basketball. The men also have won nearly 20 titles in volleyball, 16 in tennis, nine in water polo, eight in outdoor track and field, two in golf and gymnastics, and one championship in baseball and swimming.

UCLA women's teams have added 39 championships for UCLA. Their victories include 11 titles in softball, seven in water polo, six in gymnastics, four in volleyball, three in outdoor track and field and golf, two in indoor track and field and tennis and one title in soccer.

Seeking More Titles

The most important sports for the UCLA Bruins are basketball and football because those programs bring in the most money. The men's basketball team hasn't won a title since 2005 -- the team won 10 NCAA men's basketball titles during its glory under the late coach John Wooden -- and the school has never won a national championship in football. However, the team believes it's on the right path with Jim Mora Jr. as its head coach.

If the team happens to win another title in basketball or its first title in football, the Bruins mascot would likely claim its spot atop every other mascot in collegiate athletes. When you consider the fact that the Bruin mascot is already one of the most popular mascots among general college sports fans, imagine how much its popularity would skyrocket with a few national championships.