The roadrunner (also known as "chaparral cock") is a long-legged bird found in parts of the
southwestern United States and Mexico. In Southwest Indian legends, roadrunners are usually
notable for their speed (despite their small size, roadrunners can run faster than humans,)
bravery (roadrunners kill and eat rattlesnakes,) and endurance.
The Hopi and other Pueblo
tribes believed that roadrunners were medicine birds and could protect against evil spirits.
Their unusual X-shaped footprints
are used as sacred symbols to ward off evil in many Pueblo tribes-- partially because they invoke
the protective power of the roadrunners themselves, and partially because the X shape of the tracks
conceals which direction the bird is headed (thus throwing malignant spirits off-track.) Stylized
roadrunner tracks have been found in the rock art of ancestral Southwestern tribes like the Anasazi and
Mogollon cultures, as well. Roadrunner feathers were traditionally used to decorate Pueblo
cradleboards as spiritual protection for the baby. In Mexican Indian tribes, it was considered good luck
to see a roadrunner. In some Mexican tribes, the bird was considered sacred and never killed, but most
Mexican Indians used the meat of the roadrunner as a folk remedy to cure illness or to boost stamina and
Roadrunners are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with
Roadrunner Clans include the Zuni tribe (whose Roadrunner Clan name is Poye-kwe)
and other Pueblo tribes of New Mexico.