The Origin and Meaning of the Arkansas Nicknames
The history, origin and meaning of each of the state's nicknames are as follows:
The Natural State
The name Natural refers to the natural beauty and abundant wildlife in the region. There is a great variety of beautiful landscapes from dense woodland to fertile plains and from valleys to mountains. The natural beauty of the state and its opportunities for fishing in the clear streams and lakes attract many tourists to the region. Arkansas boasts 3 national forests, Ouachita and Ozark national parks and 52 state parks.
The Bear (pronounced "Bar") and the Wonder State
The name 'wonder' was used in an earlier nickname but was not believed to fully convey the opportunities of the region and was subsequently replaced by the 'Land of Opportunity. The reference to bears relates to the vast number of black bears (Ursus americanus luteolus) that originally roamed the lands.
The Land of Opportunity
The Land of Opportunity alludes to a optimistic outlook for the development of business, industry, and agriculture in the region.
The Toothpick or the Bowie State
These nicknames are direct references to the names given to the common sheath, throwing or belt knives that were used by the original pioneers and settlers in the region. The Bowie knife was first made James Black for Jim Bowie, hence its name. The legendary Bowie knife was described as "sharp enough for shaving, heavy enough to be handled as a hatchet, as long as a sword, and broad enough to paddle with".
A razorback (Sus scrofa scrofa) is the name for a wild boar with long, coarse hair that sometimes forms in a tuft along their back (hence, the name razorback). The razorback serves as an emblem for athletes in the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Fans of the athlete's team shout a chant derived from a hog farmers' call.