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Guide to Life and Literature
of the Southwest

Coyotes, Lobos, and Panthers

I SEPARATE COYOTES, lobos, and panthers from the mass of animals because they, along with bears, have made such an imprint on human imagination. White-tailed deer are far more common and more widely dispersed. Men, women also, by the tens of thousands go out with rifles every fall in efforts to get near them; but the night-piercing howl and the cunning ways of the coyote, the panther's track and the rumor of his scream have inspired more folk tales than all the deer.

Lore and facts about these animals are dispersed in many books not classifiable under natural history. Lewis and Clark and nearly all the other chroniclers of Trans-Mississippi America set down much on wild life. James Pike's Scout and Ranger details the manner in which, he says, a panther covered him up alive, duplicating a fanciful and delightful tale in Gerstaecker's Wild Sports in the Far West. James B. O'Neil concludes They Die but Once with some "Bedtime Stories" that -- almost necessarily -- bring in a man-hungry panther.


The two full-length books on Brother Coyote listed below specify most of the printed literature on the animal. (He is "Brother" in Mexican tales and I feel much more brotherly toward him than I feel toward character assassins in political power.) It would require another book to catalogue in detail all the writings that include folk tales about Don Coyote. Ethnologists and scientific folklorists recognize what they call "the Coyote Circle" in the folklore of many tribes of Indians. Morris Edward Opler in Myths and Legends of the Lipan Apache Indians, 1940, and in Myths and Tales of the Chiricahua Apache Indians, 1942 (both issued by the American Folklore Society, New York) treats fully of this cycle. Numerous tales that belong to the cycle are included by J. Gilbert McAllister, an anthropologist who writes as a humanist, in his extended collection, "Kiowa-Apache Tales," in The Sky Is My Tipi, edited by Mody C. Boatright for the Texas Folklore Society (Publication XXII), Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1949.

Literary retellers of Indian coyote folk tales have been many. The majority of retellers from western Indians include Coyote. One of the very best is Frank B. Linderman, in Indian Why Stories and Indian Old-Man Stories. These titles are substantive: Old Man Coyote by Clara Kern Bayliss (New York, 1908, OP), Coyote Stories by Mourning Dove (Caldwell, Idaho, 1934, OP); Don Coyote by Leigh Peck (Boston, 1941) gets farther away from the Indian, is more juvenile. The Journal of American Folklore and numerous Mexican books have published hundreds of coyote folk tales from Mexico. Among the most pleasingly told are Picture Tales frown Mexico by Dan Storm, 1941 (Lippincott, Philadelphia). The first two writers listed below bring in folklore.


Zuni Breadstuff, Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York, 1920. This extraordinary book, one of the most extraordinary ever written on a particular people, is not made up of coyote lore alone. In it the coyote becomes a character of dignity and destiny, and the telling is epic in dignity as well as in prolongation. Frank Hamilton Cushing was a genius; his sympathy, insight, knowledge, and mastery of the art of writing enabled him to reveal the spirit of the Zuni Indians as almost no other writer has revealed the spirit of any other tribe. Their attitude toward Coyote is beautifully developed. Cushing's Zuni Folk Tales (Knopf, New York, 1901, 1931) is climactic on "tellings" about Coyote.


The Voice of the Coyote, Little, Brown, Boston, 1949. Not only the coyote but his effect on human imagination and ecological relationships. Natural history and folklore; many tales from factual trappers as well as from Mexican and Indian folk. This is a strange book in some ways. If the author had quit at the end of the first chapter, which is on coyote voicings and their meaning to varied listeners, he would still have said something. The book includes some, but by no means all, of the material on the subject in Coyote Wisdom (Publication XIV of the Texas Folklore Society, 1938) edited by J. Frank Dobie and now distributed by Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas.


Wolves and Wolf Nature, in Trail and Camp-Fire, New York, 1897. This long chapter is richer in facts about the coyote than anything published prior to The Voice of the Coyote, which borrows from it extensively.


Sierra Outpost, Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1941. An extraordinary detailment of the friendship between two people, isolated by snow high in the California Sierras, and three coyotes. Written with fine sympathy, minute in observations.


Talking to the Moon, University of Chicago Press, 1945. A wise and spiritual interpretation of the black-jack country of eastern Oklahoma, close to the Osages, in which John Joseph Mathews lives. Not primarily about coyotes, the book illuminates them more than numerous books on particular animals illuminate their subjects.


Ecology of the Coyote in the Yellowstone, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1940. An example of strict science informed by civilized humanity. The Wolves of Mount McKinley, United States Government Printing Of ice, Washington, D. C., 1944. Murie's combination of prolonged patience, science, and sympathy behind the observations has never been common. His ecological point of view is steady. Highly interesting reading.


(with Edward A. Goldman). The Wolves of North America, American Wildlife Institute, Washington, D. C., 1944. Full information, full bibliography, without narrative power. Sketches of American Wildlife, Monumental Press, Baltimore, 1946. This slight book contains pleasant chapters on the Puma, Wolf, Coyote, Antelope and other animals characteristic of the West. (With Hartley H. T. Jackson) The Clever Coyote, Stackpole, Harrisburg, Pa., and Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, D. C., 1951. Emphasis upon the economic status and control of the species, an extended classification of subspecies, and a full bibliography make this book and Dobie's The Voice of the Coyote complemental to each other rather than duplicative.


Anybody who so wishes may call them mountain lions. Where there were Negro mammies, white children were likely to be haunted in the night by fear of ghosts. Otherwise, for some children of the South and West, no imagined terror of the night equaled the panther's scream. The Anglo-American lore pertaining to the panther is replete with stories of attacks on human beings. Indian and Spanish lore, clear down to where W. H. Hudson of the pampas heard it, views the animal as un amigo de los cristianos -- a friend of man. The panther is another animal as interesting for what people associated with him have taken to be facts as for the facts themselves.


When the Dogs Barked `Treed', University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1946. Mainly on mountain lions, but firsthand observations on other predatory animals also. Before he became state game warden, the author was for years with the United States Forest Service.


Hunting American Lions, New York, 1948; reprinted by University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. Mr. Hibben considers hunting panthers and bears a terribly dangerous business that only intrepid heroes like himself would undertake. Sometimes in this book, but more awesomely in Hunting American Bears, he manages to out-zane Zane Grey, who had to warn his boy scout readers and puerile-minded readers of added years that Roping Lions in the Grand Canyon is true in contrast to the fictional Young Lion Hunter, which uses some of the same material.


The Naturalist in La Plata, New York, 1892. A chapter in this book entitled "The Puma, or Lion of America" provoked an attack from Theodore Roosevelt (in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter); but it remains the most delightful narrative-essay yet written on the subject.


The Puma, Mysterious American Cat, American Wildlife Institute, Washington, D. C., 1946. Scientific, liberal with information of human interest, bibliography. We get an analysis of the panther's scream but it does not curdle the blood.

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