When I moved to Arizona in the mid 1980’s a frequent sight when traveling over the mountain to Prescott or traveling down to Phoenix was herds of pronghorn antelope. Now almost thirty years later the sightings are less frequent. The open grasslands over the mountain in Prescott are part of Prescott Valley and homes have been built and the highway expanded. I was thrilled to take the picture you see in this posting when showing my brother the sights last October. The high grasslands on the way to Phoenix have herds of cattle from time to time but I no longer spot antelope. I count myself lucky to have the contact with them that I do.
The Spring 2013 edition of National Parks featured an article on the Yellowstone’s pronghorn entitled “The Value of Species”. I learned some facts about pronghorn I didn’t know before and wholeheartedly agree with the author’s thesis that plant and animal species have value in and of themselves, not just in terms of what they contribute to humans.
I didn’t know that the pronghorn antelope are not really antelopes because they do not lose their horns. Also, they only exist in North America and have always existed here: they did not come over here from Asia as many other species, including humans did.
They evolved to be the fastest long distance runners in the world: they can sprint at 60 miles per hour. Only African cheetahs sprint faster than pronghorns, but could not keep up with pronghorns over a distance. Pronghorns are interesting to study because they have developed a huge heart, trachea and lungs to enable their running. They also have a large liver for storing energy that can be accessed quickly and special cartilage padding on their hooves. What’s even more astonishing is that these adaptations serve no purpose in present day because no predator is around to give them a decent chase—not even the gray wolf.
The fossil record shows that pronghorns existed on this continent with several species of high-speed cats that disappeared from America in the Pleistocene extinction 11,000 years ago. Their ancient enemies caused the evolution of their amazing speed and the pronghorn survived to the present day.
So what are the messages and gifts pronghorns have to share with us? Jamie Sams and David Carson in Medicine Cards have quite a lot to say about Antelope. Not surprisingly, Antelope represents action: doing. They tell a story of Antelope teaching this lesson to the People when they were naked, hungry, and in danger of extinction. “Antelope taught humans to honor the gifts sent from Great Mystery, and to avoid indiscriminate destruction of life. Antelope medicine gives you strength of mind and heart, and the ability to take quick and decisive action to get things accomplished.”
Ted Andrews in Animal Speak says that the pronghorn reflects a mental agility and quick-wittedness that enable it to survive in the most difficult of environments. Their thick hides and tubular hairs provide insulation in winter and can be a message to either insulate oneself or a need to come out of hiding. He says it’s not unusual for sensitive and empathic people to have antelope show up in their lives.
Talking about the pronghorn speeds, even baby fawns can run around 25 miles per hour in the first day of life! Andrews attributes pronghorn medicine with quick wittedness and dynamic communication. Children with this totem often drive their parents nuts with continual questions. Their minds and imaginations are always active.
Pronghorns can see for long distances and this along with the antennae-like horns confer clairvoyance on individuals with a pronghorn totem. “They came in with the lights on, although they don’t always realize it.” Pronghorns also have a strong sense of smell that can awaken psychic and mediumistic abilities in this area.
I find the pronghorn very interesting creatures with much to teach me. I appreciate their gifts. Have any of you had pronghorn experiences?