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Native American Roadrunner Mythology

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.

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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 strength.

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.

Native American Roadrunner Gods and Spirits

Hospoa Kachina (Hopi)

Native American Legends About Roadrunners

*Leader of the Birds:
    Apache story about the birds choosing Roadrunner for their chief.
*How The King Of Birds Was Chosen:
    Mayan story about Roadrunner giving away his plumage to Quetzal.

Recommended Books of Roadrunner Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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The Real Roadrunner:
    Interesting book on the natural history and cultural importance of the roadrunner, including a chapter on Pueblo and Mexican Indian beliefs.
Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend, and Superstition:
    A good book on the meaning of birds in world mythology, including Native North America.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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