Sunderland AFC was founded in 1879 and have embraced the Black Cat as a part of the club since the earliest days. The connection seems odd upon first hearing the reference but makes complete sense once you understand the story behind the famous nickname.
The Black Cat was long associated with the city of Sunderland. Myth has it that Joshua Dunn, a local volunteer in the Sunderland Loyal Volunteer militia, ‘fled from the howling of an approaching black cat’ one night in 1805. The incident resulted in the John Paul Jones Battery, 1 of 4 batteries guarding the River Wear, to be locally referred to as the Black Cat Battery.
The name stuck and was an easy reference for the club when it formed in the neighborhood by school master James Allen.
Ahead of the 1887/88 campaign, Sunderland official adopted their now famous red and white striped jerseys that included a new badge. The new club badge included a Black Cat along with a ship, part of the Sunderland Coat of Arms, and a football in front of the red and white stripes.
While black cats are considered in some cultures to be bad omens, English sailors thought black cats brought good luck and worked to have the ship’s cat be black. The lucky connotation carried over to the club with it being located on the coast in the North East of England.
The legend of the black cat was reinforced when Sunderland won the 1937 FA Cup. Supporter Billy Morris was said to have snuck a black cat into the game in his coat pocket in the 3-1 comeback win over Preston North End at Wembley. It was the club’s first FA Cup trophy.
During the 1960’s a black cat made Roker Park its home and was informally adopted by the club as they left food and water out for the cat. The Sunderland AFC Supporters Association officially adopted the black cat as an emblem at this time.
The Black Cat, however, was still not the club’s official nickname. They were also known ‘The Rokerites,’ after their Roker Park ground, ‘The Lads,’ and ‘The Mackems.’ The Black Cat did not feature on the club’s badge from 1977 until 1997.
With their historic move to the Stadium of Light from Roker Park in 1997, the club decided to settle on a nickname. The Black Cats won a majority of the vote of supporters and was official adopted. The Black Cat returned to a place of prominence on the badge. 2 Black Cat lions are shown on either side of the club shield above the scroll with the club’s motto ‘Consectatio Excellentiae (In pursuit of excellence).’