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Why Is Wisconsin Called the Badger State?

Miners earned Wisconsin the nickname "The Badger State."
Wisconsin's nickname is an indirect reference to the behavior of badgers.
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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2014
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Unlike most of the other states that are named after animals, the nickname for the state of Wisconsin is not due to the animal it is named after being abundant in its territorial borders. One of the state nicknames of Wisconsin is “The Badger State.” This nickname is not a direct reference to the presence of the animals in the state. Rather, the nickname is a consequence of the behavior of the early settlers. The appellation “The Badger State” is an indirect reference to the behavior of badgers, while describing that of the miners.

In the 1830s, lead miners who worked at the various locations had a peculiar habit of digging homes out of hillsides located next to the mines. These homes were temporary in nature and meant to serve as places of abode in close proximity to the mines. A lot of people thought the habit was very odd, and soon the abodes dug out of the hillsides were referred to as “badger dens” while the miners who dug them were referred to as “badgers.” This was most certainly not a complimentary appellation since it had a derisive undertone. The miners were called badgers because their act of digging the caves in the ground was a little too similar to that of the badgers who also dug underground places of abode. The name soon stuck and was extended to other citizens of the state of Wisconsin and, eventually, to the state as a whole.

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Wisconsin is home to a number of copper mines where a substantial quantity of copper is mined annually. This led to another state nickname that is connected to the mines and the mining industry. In addition to “The Badger State,” Wisconsin is also called “The Copper State.”

Another reason why the state is called “The Badger State” is due to the fact that the badger was officially adopted in 1957 as Wisconsin’s official state animal. A nickname that actually suits Wisconsin more than “The Badger State” is “The Dairy State.” This is due to the fact that Wisconsin has a thriving dairy product industry fueled by the abundance of dairy cows in the state. Wisconsin is the second largest producer of dairy products in the United States, next to the state of California. Some of the dairy products include milk and cheese. The enormous amount of cheese produced in the state has led to the nickname of “The Cheese State.”

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My cousin went to the University of Wisconsin, and I never understood why their mascot was the badger. Since badgers really are not common in Wisconsin, and they aren't particularly heroic creatures, I just didn't see what the attraction was. Knowing that they are a symbol of the whole state, it makes more sense now.

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