By Darryl Alder
Apr 19, 2016

Did You Know Cub Scouting has roots in ‘The Jungle Book?’

You know that Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book spawned a number of movies, including the 1967 animated film and a 2016 live-action version. But did you know Kipling’s 1894 collection of short stories also spawned the Cub Scouting program?—Bryan on Scouting

Early on in Scouting, younger boys, the brothers of Scouts, wanted to join in the fun. Some troops had junior Scouts, but Baden-Powell (BP), Scouting’s founder was not fond of the watered down program and felt younger boys needed their own program.

At the time, “some child psychologists were pointing out that the tendency toward delinquency began around the age of eight. If Scouting’s character-training purposes were to be attained, its programme would have to take in boys of that age.”1

So in 1914,  Robert Baden-Powell published a “set of rules for ‘Wolf Cubs, or Young Scouts”2 in the January issue of the Headquarters Gazette. The Gazette promised a new book by BP on the subject. “The younger boy, he felt, deserved something that would be peculiarly his own, something that would be fun to him and yet mould him into a real boy.”3

To make headway BP knew that he would have to find a theme round which a suitable programme could be built. And suddenly he realized that he had it in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Books,’ the tales of Mowgli, the man-child , growing up among the wolves… obeying the wise Akela, the old Wolf…learning The law of the jungle from easy going Baloo, the bear…hunting with the silent Bagheera, the panther. Here was a story that all young boys should know, a hook on which BP realized that he would be able to hang a multitude of activities and ideals.He wrote to  Kipling for the author’s permission to base a program for younger boys on The Jungle Book.  Kipling, a good friend of Scouting from its earliest days, the author of the official Boy Scout song and father of a Scout, immediately gave his consent.

BP’s book explaining his new scheme for younger boys—’The Wolf Cub’s Handbook—was published [two years later ].4

Sixteen years later, the BSA launched its own version of the new program called Cub Scouting. According to Bryan Wendell, Scouting Magazine editor, “The new program meant younger boys could benefit from Scouting’s values.” He continues:

Even though American Cub Scouting has evolved since its 1930 inception, today’s boys still use terms like Akela, pack and den that can be traced to The Jungle Book.

Handbooks-new-featured (1)Cub Scouts learn about this century-old connection to The Jungle Book on page 9 of their Tiger HandbookWolf Handbook or Bear Handbook. The passage reads:

“Baden-Powell liked the stories in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, and he thought many of the characters were fun and playful, just like Cub Scouts. He also knew it was important for the boys to have a wise leader like Akela, the wolf. Akela lets Mowgli, the boy, join the wolf pack. Maybe you also know about Baloo the bear, who helps teach Mowgli the laws of the jungle so he can live among the animals. To this day, we have names like Akela and Baloo, and words like den and pack, in Cub Scouting. That’s our way of remembering how Cub Scouting began with The Jungle Book.”


The new Disney film stars Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, a character billed as “a great leader” and a “wise teacher.”

The new Disney film stars Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, a character billed as “a great leader” and a “wise teacher.”

In Cub Scouting, Akela also is a wise teacher. Anyone who is older than the Cub Scout can be Akela, including the den leader, the assistant den leader, the adult partner, a parent or a guardian. There’s a space in the handbooks after each requirement for two signatures: one from the den leader and one from Akela.


In the new movie, Baloo is a free-spirited bear played by Bill Murray.

In the new movie, Baloo is a free-spirited bear played by Bill Murray.

In Cub Scouting, BALOO stands for Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation and is a council-level training course for leaders who want to add a camping component to their pack activities. In other words, BALOO training helps Cub Scout packs become a little more free-spirited. 5

If you want to know Ten Things Cub Scouts can Learn from The Jungle Book click here.

1 “Baden-Powell The two Lives of a Hero” William Hillcourt, The Gilwellisan Press: NY, pp. 350-512 ibid  p. 351
3 ibid  p. 351
4 ibid   p. 351
5 From Akela to the pack, Cub Scouting has roots in ‘The Jungle Book’, Bryan on Scouting

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.