Signature series ~ Gyptian

Mundy Hackett

Joined September 2007

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Artist's Description

American mountain lion, aka cougar aka puma. Taken at the Dickinson Park Zoo.

“*Puma concolor:
The Latin name for the cat of many names

Cougar. Catamount. Painter. Panther. Ghost cat. Puma. Mountain lion.

In speaking of the many names of cougar, one folktale tells the story of Native Americans who would bring pelts to trade in what is now New York City. When the Europeans and white settlers would question why all only skins of females (given the lack of manes) were brought for trade, the Native Americans explained that the males lived far away in the mountains, playing a joke of sorts on the naïve newcomers—this is why cougars, who are not specific to mountain regions at all, came to be known as “mountain lions”.

The etymological history of the word cougar comes from French naturalist-explorer Count Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon, who called Puma concolor “cuougar”. This usage was derived from the Brazilian Portugese word cuguacuarana, which in turn came from the Tupi Indian word susuarana, which means “false deer”. We find that this word aptly captures the international allure and cross-cultural nature of the species, while distinguishing our organization from a popular brand of athletic shoes—Puma.

Symbolism, Lore and Native American Experience with Cougar


The spirit of the Cougar chose to take the earth and walk as a spiritual hunter, to teach unconditional leadership, patience and determination.

“The strengths they represent have a powerful lesson for those that are willing to learn from them” -Nancy Wood Taber, artist

According to animal totem lore, cougar is the energy of leadership. If we listen to Cougar we learn to become the leader that people follow by choice, not by force. Cougar has the wisdom to lead through love, not through fear. Cougar is a take-charge totem or energy. Cougar people are such natural leaders that others tend to take their leadership for granted. If no one else is leading, cougar will naturally take over. Cougar is graceful and balances intention, strength and responsibility. Others are always safe when cougar is in charge.

The cougar is very elusive and is rarely encountered in the wild. Because of this quality, cougar can appear without being noticed and quietly take control of a situation. Sometimes this can lead to conflict with others over territory. It is often noted as an animal that is independent, shy and withdrawn. The same characteristics are often found in people with this medicine.

Cougar is associated with leadership and teaches decisiveness in the use of personal power. When it attacks it does not hesitate. When threatened it goes for the most vulnerable place. Cougar is not often allowed to show vulnerability.

~Excerpt from The Cougar Fund*

The Eastern cougar, native to states in North America East of the MIssissippi River, is gone from over 99% of it’s range and is listed as an endangered species of critical status.

Artwork Comments

  • Carolyn Staut
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