What is a Tartar? The story behind Taylorsville High school’s mascot

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  • April 17, 2018
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Taylorsville Tartars. Courtesy: WDAM
Taylorsville high school. Courtesy: WDAM
Taylorsville high school football. Courtesy: WDAM

Taylorsville, MS (WDAM) –

With every passing week, the Taylorsville Tartars have been talked about more and more as they’ve made their run to the class 2A state championship.

And with every mention of Taylorsville, my curiosity grew. What in the world is a Tartar?

I went straight to the source first – Taylorsville High school – as the football team prepared for Friday’s state title game against Winona.

“A Tartar is a Mongolian warrior,” said Taylorsville head football coach Chuck Robertson. “Why they picked, that I don’t know. But I do like the fact that nobody else has it."

“A Mongolian Warrior,” said Taylorsville senior offensive lineman Luke Hawkins. “You got a water tower back there and there’s a picture of it. I remember asking my parents when I was a little kid."

“It’s a warrior,” said Taylorsville senior running back Tycarius Roberts. “I didn’t know at first until everybody kept saying, ‘What is a tartar?’"

A Mongolian Warrior representing a Mississippi football team? My curiosity grew further.

There was one resource I had not yet exhausted, the local university. I stopped in with Southern Miss history professor Brian LaPierre, who specialized in Russian history.

"The story of the Tartars starts with Ghengis Khan and the great Mongol Empire of Eurasia,” LaPierre said. “The Tartars were fierce warriors. They were mounted archers who used speed, mobility and shock-power to overwhelm their enemies. Tartarus in Greco-Roman mythology was part of the underworld. So, by linking the Tartars to Tartarus, they could imagine these conquerors as warriors from hell. So, it’s not a bad name for a football team."

I was drawn back to where my question was first asked – Taylorsville High school. I learned that coach Lucien Cowen gave Taylorsville the name Tartars. Along with a high school in Utah, Taylorsville is one of only two schools in the United States with the mascot.

“Back in the heyday, back when they were winning multiple state championships, everybody knew they were the Tartars,” Robertson said. “They just didn’t know what a Tartar was. You know you hear people call Tar Tars or Tartars. It’s fun to be something different and unique and I try to use that with my kids as much as I can. People may not know what they are, but they do understand it is who they’re playing."

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