Cougar, mountain lion, panther, puma, catamount -- by any name this illusive member of the cat family found largely in North America is admired for its swiftness, stealth, strength and intelligence, but also for the devoted attention it pays to its young. When hunting, the cougar instinctively attacks its prey's most vulnerable spot, grabbing its victim by the throat if it can, by the spine if it can't. It can kill with one bite. Elusive, shy, withdrawn and territorial, the cougar is an obvious symbol for those who value their independence.
Powerful and decisive, this mighty cat has been adopted by Native American tribes as a sign of leadership. The cougar's cunning, its keen sense of sight and smell and its knowledge of the habits of other animals inspired ancient hunters. Carvings of the animal were sometimes taken on the hunt. For some Native American people, the cougar has long been the symbol of intuition. The superior knowledge and intelligence of the cougar, together with its personal power and agility made it the chosen messenger between humans and the higher spirits. Some tribes in the Americas regarded the cougar as the Protector of the Universe. North, the most significant of the four cardinal directions, took the cougar as its guardian.
A powerful animal totem, the cougar represents balanced leadership - the ability to lead without force. Nurturing as a mother, yet potent as a hunter, here we have a rare animal that combines power and protectiveness, and strength and survival. For the Cheyenne, the cougar was a symbol of the maternal spirit. For the Apache, the haunting cry of the cougar was a prelude to death.