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The Prairie Wolf (Coyote)
by Frank H. Parrish

There are many stories replete with the power attributed to the coyote. One story of the coyote as the purveyor of Good Medicine took place at Hueco Tanks, east of El Paso, Texas.  A band of  Kiowa warriors was overtaken by Mexican soldiers at Hueco Tanks and a bloody battle took place. One Kiowa was so badly wounded that he had to be left near a spring. As the day and night advanced his life seemed to ebb away. In a semi-comatose state, the Kiowa heard the distant howling of coyotes. The howling came

Coyote in winter

Coyote in the snow


 nearer and the Indian was sure that the coyotes had smelled his blood and were only waiting for him to die before feasting. Next he heard soft steps close to his ear. The coyote came forward and licked his wounds, then laid down quietly by his side. The Indian was so soothed he fell asleep. When he awoke the coyote was still lying by his side. The coyote continued licking his wounds. Soon some strength returned to the Kiowa and he managed to crawl to the spring to slake his great thirst. The coyote "told" him that he must endure and that he would get back to his people. That day six Commanches, friends of the Kiowas, came to the spring, found him and returned him to a camp of his people. At the next Sundance he made public his thanksgiving to the coyote. In the calendar history of the tribe it was the year 1839. (1)


The Spanish gave the animal its name from the Aztec word for the animal: coyotl. Later names were applied as well in different periods by different peoples. Such names as "prairie wolf,"

God's Dog

Gods Dog


"God's Dog," "the trickster," and others have been used but he continues to be best known as the "coyote."

Howling Coyotes
Howling Coyotes

The singing of the coyote is the music of the desert and plains and is much a feel of the West today as it was in earliest times.


Coyotes appear to be most fond of the duet; two coyotes singing together. The duet will sound as though there must be six to ten animals, quite a bluff to any creature unfamiliar with coyote music. Coyotes are thought to transmit signals to each other through this coyote lingo; a change in the weather, hunters in the area, location of kin and most of gloriously, a feeling of gladness and coyote joy.


The resource-
fulness, intelli-
gence and adaptability of the coyote is legendary and is noted throughout prehistory as well. Its ability to adapt and to survive is unequaled in North American mammals.

Coyote Portrait
Coyote Portrait

The buffalo hunters of the Plains noted that the coyote very early learned to hang back and wait for the conclusion to the hunters' work, then proceed to feed on the carcasses left on the plains.

The coyote has been successful in many instances where less intelligent and adaptable predators have not. The coyote in Indian lore is credited with many deeds, which to the skeptical white man, was mythological nonsense. However this is no longer the case as many deeds of the trickster are finally being documented through modern man's methods of photography, video tapes and transmitters. This studying is far from complete and no doubt will shed more light on the animal for the sake of science. For the original people of the Southwest however it is redundant to say the least.

A hundred years from today when the world has changed to whatever it will be and man's hand is seen in places that even today are remote, one thing is certain - the singing of the gladness and joy that we recognize today will be heard in Southern New Mexico and why not rejoice in song, for the Prairie Wolf's  future has never looked brighter!

1 This account was included in J.Frank Dobie's book "The Voice of the Coyote."

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