The Nittany Lion has been Penn State's mascot since 1904 (it first appeared at a baseball game against Princeton). This is the earliest picture I could find:
Apparently, Harrison D. "Joe" Mason '07 coined the term Nittany Lion and proclaimed it the "fiercest beast of them all,".
Check out this description as to exactly what a Nittany Lion is:
The Nittany Lion is essentially an ordinary mountain lion (also known as a cougar, puma, or panther), a creature that roamed central Pennsylvania until the1880s (although unconfirmed sightings continued long after that time). By attaching the prefix "Nittany" to this beast, Mason gave Penn State a unique symbol that no other college or university could claim.The origin of the term "Nittany" can be view below:
The word "Nittany" seems to have been derived from a Native American term meaning "single mountain." (Since a number of Algonquian-speaking tribes inhabited central Pennsylvania, the term can't be traced to one single group.) These inhabitants applied this description to the mountain that separates Penns Valley and Nittany Valley, overlooking what is today the community of State College and Penn State's University Park campus. The first white settlers in the 1700s apparently adopted this term, or a corruption of it, when they named that mountain, i.e., Mount Nittany or Nittany Mountain. Thus by the time Penn State admitted its first students in 1859, the word "Nittany" was already in use.So, the term Nittany is exclusive to the central Pennsylvania region.
The Nittany Lion takes both Mascot form and statue:
The Lion does a one-handed pushup for every point PSU scores.
(yes that is me riding the lion)
(My major source for this info on the Lion was found here)
Compare the Lion's excellence to a brief reason of why Mich. is called the wolverines (find my source here):
The simplest reason for the wolverine nickname would be that the animal was abundant in Michigan for some time. However, all evidence points otherwise, as there has never been a verified trapping of a wolverine inside the state's borders, nor have skeletal remains of a wolverine been found in the 96,705 square miles that comprise Michigan. In fact, there had never been a verified sighting of a wild wolverine inside Michigan until February 2004.In short, there is absolutely no reason for UM to be called the wolverines (other than they though it "sounded cool".
BEST MASCOT IN AMERICA = THE NITTANY LION!