Rats and Rabbits

Recently we had a chance to collaborate with the Archives at The Ohio State University on their site, Beanies of the Big 10, so we thought we would share what we learned about freshman caps at Maryland with our readers.

The tradition of wearing freshman caps began at the Maryland Agricultural College even before our cadets were allowed to abandon their mandatory military-style uniforms. The first evidence of beanies appeared in the 1912 Reveille yearbook, in a sketch depicting a becapped sophomore lighting the way for the incoming freshmen, known as “rats.” In the early years, the color of the caps varied annually according to the sophomore class’ chosen hue(s), one year green, another white and scarlet, yet another orange and blue, and so on.

Co-eds arrived at Maryland in the fall of 1916, but the freshmen women, known as “rabbits,” remained uncapped for five years. After much debate on the fate of the beanies for the first six months of the 1921-1922 academic year, all students were required to once again don their small caps, including females. For an unspecified period , the rabbit caps also had a distinctive style, and the University of Maryland Archives holds one such hat, donated by alumna Barbara Kurz, for the Class of 1944.

You could buy your dink in the bookstore

Rat and rabbit caps disappeared in the face of a huge influx of veterans utilizing their G.I. Bill benefits following World War II. The 1947 Terrapin yearbook reported that “…the reinstitution of ratting came up for a lot of discussion. The freshmen, most of whom had been through a war, didn’t need this period of knocking down, and therefore ratting was discontinued.”


The caps, then known as dinks, returned to the campus scene in fall 1952. The precise date for the end of the beanie tradition at the University of Maryland is unknown. The last yearbook photo including a dink appears in the 1970 volume, although the image may have been taken in an earlier year. Dinks were likely a victim of the rising tide of rebellion on the campus in the late 1960s, as students began an extended series of protests against the Vietnam War and increasingly rejected the strictures of the university’s in loco parentis control.


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