Sunday, July 20, 2008

"I prefer winter and fall,

when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show" (Andrew Wyeth)

This pic ain't mine. Found it at (Can't tell I'm an English major by how I like to cite things, can ya? lol)

I’ve loved animals ever since I can remember. I guess that’s what I get for having lamb pen for a playpen. In the past few months I’ve aimed that passion at studying animal behavior as well as their totemic significance. Since horses and dogs/wolves have always been my main interests, I’ve studied them at length. But for the book I wanted more, especially in terms of wild animal behavior. For some reason cougars fell into my lap (relating to an experience with a puma while tracking a lost dog). Never having studied big cats, I found cougars especially fascinating.

Robert H. Busch’s The Cougar Almanac provided me with a great, quick overview of cougars, their appearance, behavior, and the state of their habitat. Cougars used to roam all through the US, but extensive trapping and hunting has radically reduced their ranges, causing their range often to overlap human habitations.

They are a long and lanky cat, coming in colors of tawny brown, rust, lemon, smoke, slate gray, with black being rare or nonexistent. They are two-tone, with a white throat and underside of their bodies. The tip of their tail is black. Their fur is short and course with loose hide. They have short, round ears; short, blunt snouts; and powerful jaw/bones. Their whiskers help the cats “see” in the dark, acting as an extra tactile sense to detect wind currents. They have amazing agility, can leap forty feet, and 285 degree vision, a sort of wide angle since humans have only 210 degree vision. More rods than cones in the cougar’s eyes give them excellent night vision. The senses of sight and hearing predominate over their senses of smell and taste, both of which are limited.

Cougars have this really neat extra sensory organ, called the Jacobsen’s organ. It’s a nasal organ that picks up airborne chemicals. They use it by opening the mouth, tipping their head back, wrinkling its nose and closing its eyes in what is called the flehmen gesture.

According to Ted Andrews, the cougar totem stands for coming into your own power and asserting oneself. It is recommended, if one has cougar medicine, to also study the deer, a cougar’s favorite prey. The deer stands for gentleness. Combined with the cougar, it means that power can be asserted gently. For instance, the cougar’s diet can consist of one-third porcupine meat. The cat has learned how to flip the porcupine, exposing its belly.

For more information on cougars and their totem, see,