bear cat n
An imaginary animal of proverbial fierceness; hence, a person or thing that is fierce, tough, or successful; a “winner.”
1897 Sun (Indianapolis IN) [13 Jan 8]/1 (newspaperarchive.com), ‘I’m a bear cat,’ said Jim Johnson, ‘and I’ll make that black fellow forget his way to his own corner.’ 1909 in 1993 Zwilling TAD Lexicon 17, [Comment on a golf shot:] O mommer!! There’s a bearcat. 1910 Post–Std. (Syracuse NY) 31 May 11/1 (newspaperarchive.com), Cin[cin]nati, St. Louis, Boston, Brooklyn and [Ph]iladelphia will fight like bear cats to [se]e which one of them gets into the [fir]st division. 1911 Commercial Telegraphers’ Jrl. 11.35, A number of the members of “our set” took in the smoker of the Commercial Telegraphers’ Union last night in Manhattan. As a smoker it was a real bear cat. 1925 Kroll Compar. Study S. Folk Speech 4 AL, Bear cat. . . A strong person. “He’s a bear cat when it comes to punching bulls.” Noted in an Alabama log camp. 1933 AmSp 8.3.35 [Prizefight jargon], Bearcat. An excellent fighter, a honey. 1951 Porter Ragged Roads 93 wOK, To the south . . was sprawled that endless sweep of moving, blinding sand bars—that bear cat, the South Canadian River. 1967 DARE File neOR, A bear cat—something that is tops [=of superior quality]. 1979 Corbin Times–Tribune (KY) 4 Jan 5/5, People are not going to be dominated by unfavorable weather if they can help it and will fight like bearcats to overcome any conditions unfavorable to a good way of life. 1986 Gazette (Cedar Rapids IA) 13 July sec A 2/1, Legislative secretaries have to put legislators’ thoughts into English. If you’ve ever heard a debate in the Legislature, you know what a bearcat of a job that is. 2004 Valley Independent (Monessen PA) 17 Sept sec B 3/3, “We’ve got a real bearcat of a golf course out there,” said Dennis Clark, the resort’s director of Golf Operations.