Gird Your Loins!

When I first moved to Oklahoma twenty-three years ago, I became intrigued with a small mammal I often saw as road-kill on the rural highways. I know plenty of people who think armadillos are ugly and strange creatures, and I have often heard avid gardeners say, “The only good armadillo is a dead armadillo”. Having lived up north most of my life, however, I had never really seen one and knew little about them. The way folks around here talked about the armadillo, I thought they must be some kind of devil-creature! But I did not have to worry about them much while I lived in town – armadillos prefer to live in warm, wet climates, typically making habitats in forested and grassland areas.

With poor eyesight, and nose-to-the-ground much of the time, it is fairly easy to sneak up on an armadillo!
With poor eyesight, and nose-to-the-ground much of the time, it is fairly easy to sneak up on an armadillo!

Relocating to this ten acres a few years ago, I discovered quickly that the woodland below the slope was home to many armadillos. Though I did not actually see them at night when they do most of their feeding, I did see the evidence of their presence the next morning, as it was obvious the little devils had been rooting around in our yard! Armadillos seek out food with their elongated snouts, and use their powerful legs and claws to dig for grubs and various other sorts of insects and invertebrates. My flower beds and our yard were sabotaged each night. However, I was not personally fond of grubs so, rather than be upset about the armadillo’s digging, I simply added, “filling in holes” to my list of chores. If you care to find out more about the Nine-Banded Armadillo, the National Wildlife Federation webpage offers accurate and interesting information.

Unable to see me very well, this little armadillo stood up on its hind legs several times, catching scent, possibly sensing my human presence.
Unable to see me very well, this little armadillo stood up on its hind legs several times, catching scent, possibly sensing my human presence.

This spring, I suppose nature was speaking to me about armadillo medicine because, on several occasions, I managed to see the Nine-Banded Armadillo up close! In fact, toting my flashlight on a recent night’s trip to the canyon to visit with Daisy deer after a rain storm, I heard a strange sniffing and snorting sound coming from the tall grasses a short distance away. Daisy became very alert and, pointing my flashlight in the direction of the noise, we both strained our eyes and ears to see what the ruckus was. I was half afraid that it might be a small wild hog! But then, out from the grasses came a wee, young armadillo. Sniffing for grubs or insects I suppose, it made its way closer and closer to where Daisy and I stood under the dripping trees. Only about a yard from my feet, the little armadillo rose up on its hind legs and sniffed the air, then froze upright for just a few seconds as if it was contemplating its next move. And then, BOING! Straight up it jumped, scampering off into the tall grasses! Evidently, it sensed danger in its path – me?! Not at all bothered by the armadillo’s antics, Daisy went back to eating her feed. I, on the other hand, was all goose-bumps at having had such a close encounter with this little critter!

I never knew armadillos had hair until I looked at these photographs! Even their armored bodies have sparse hair all around.
I never knew armadillos had hair until I looked at these photographs! Even their armored bodies have sparse hair all around.

There were other times, while walking along the river this spring, that I caught glimpses of armadillos on the animal trails I traversed in search of wildlife. I always wonder, when I have frequent sightings or visits from an animal or bird, if there is perhaps a message from that species. After seeing and having the opportunity to photograph several of these critters up close and personal recently, I decided that it was time to research armadillo medicine.

The first and most obvious symbolic feature of the armadillo is the armored shell. The cue here is to “protect inner self” and perhaps set boundaries. We can utilize our own defense system to protect our hearts and inner spirit when the occasion arises.

I have observed armadillos as being solitary critters, often seeming aloof and self-absorbed in their own existence. In society we think of these as negative qualities. But, I wonder, could it be that “detachment and objectivity” can be embraced, leading us to understanding different attitudes and ways of being?

What about sharp little claws that love to burrow and dig? These symbols of searching, discovering and “getting to the root of the problem” might prompt us to research or investigate something deeper of ourselves.

Lastly, the armadillo spends a lot of its day sleeping. Perhaps they feel it is time to “relax, recover, or recuperate” and get a little rest. Since the armadillo lives in a den underground, it could also indicate, “retreating, withdrawing or becoming more reclusive” in order to recharge physically and spiritually – to gain a fresh perspective.

Those little claws can do major damage to any kind of landscape!
Those little claws can do major damage to any kind of landscape!

For me, it became increasingly clear, as I learned more about our little friend, what message was to be gleaned from armadillo appearances in my life. I did have an issue I had allowed to get out of control and cause discomfort. The armadillo’s message was that it was time to establish my territory, put on my armor and defend my values. Sleep had been evading me as well, so it was also time to crawl into my burrow and get some much-needed rest. Yes, this was definitely the right moment to tap into my inner armadillo and gird my loins for change!

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

Sissy Jo spotted this armadillo on an animal path near the river. Only a few steps away, we scared up Daisy deer and a couple of her winter friends, resting in a shaded area!
Sissy Jo spotted this armadillo on an animal path near the river. Only a few steps away, we scared up Daisy deer and a couple of her winter friends, resting in a shaded area!

44 thoughts on “Gird Your Loins!

  1. I do love me some armadillos! I’d only seen them as roadkill until I started going up to a Texas hill country cabin. One night I woke up terrified, sure an army was marching through the woods. Nope – it was a pair of armadillos rooting through the fallen and dried leaves. My gosh, what a racket!

    And you’re exactly right about their poor eyesight. Many an afternoon I amused myself by getting downwind and seeing how close I could get to stepping on one’s tail.

    If you’d met the armadillo’s ancestor, you can bet you’d want to gird your loins. The prehistoric armadillo-like creature, called a Glyptodon , was about the size of a VW beetle.

    I’ve been thinking about posting about our famous Armadillo House – it would require a road trip, but that’s ok. And everyone of a certain age and musical taste knows about The Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin . Oh, yes, we do. There’s even a song been written about those good ol’ days!

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    1. Good heavens! Two things about me… I LOVE Austin, TX and I grew up listening to Jerry Jeff Walker! Just as I cranked up the attached video, FD came in here wondering what the heck I was listening to! Thanks for giving me a good laugh, and for bringing back some great memories!

      Uh, I’m glad we don’t have Glyptodon’s in the woods. No way would I be interested in wildlife photography anymore!! It’s bad enough braving wild hogs and various snakes!

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    2. shoreacres, I have an old recording on vinyl (remember those things?) by Commander Cody called “Live from the Armadillo World Headquarters.”

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      1. Can I PS on a comment? Before that, it was called the “Vulcan Gas Company” when the great Texas bluesman Johnny Winter recorded his first album “The Progressive Blues Experiment.”

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  2. What a fascinating-looking creature an armadillo is! Thanks for including the large size photo so we could see the details up close. I never would have thought they had hair either.
    The way you describe him makes him sound like an HSP: protecting the inner self, setting boundaries, retreating to recuperate. Hmm, maybe I’m an armadillo and I don’t know it, LOL.

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    1. Oh my! Kim, your animal totem could be the armadillo. I didn’t think about the armadillo as an HSP, but it definitely does have the characteristics!
      I have always thought the armadillo was an interesting little critter. I don’t know how people think it is ugly. The way they move, and that incredible hop up when scared or alarmed is hilarious! Unfortunately, that is what gets them killed on the roads. They’re low to the ground, but because a passing car startles them, they hop up and get hit.

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      1. I was curious about the armadillo jumping you describe, so I went to YouTube to see it. It’s cute, but unfortunately there are also lots of videos of people terrorizing these little animals to make them jump. Humans are so ignorant and insensitive sometimes….

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        1. Oh, I know Kim! I have seen the jumping a few times in the wild. It’s comical. But it’s cruel to purposefully scare the little critters. Humans are the worst at tormenting nature… and even other humans. HSP’s seem to feel this most.

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    1. I agree, Yvonne! Everything has a purpose (except wild hogs) and I certainly don’t mind filling in the holes they leave around our place from time to time. If they get rid of the grubs that destroy lawns and gardens, then I don’t mind a visit every now and then!

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  3. If ever there was a creature that I identified with it would be the armadillo…I love them :). I didn’t know that they were middle American things, I thought that they were African! Cheers for the lesson, lets call it “the thing that I learned today” 🙂

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    1. Oh Fran, if I can teach YOU something, then it is a magnificent day!! I’d love to spend time with you being a little sponge, soaking up all of that knowledge and common sense of yours!! What you do in a day simply amazes me!

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      1. I wish we could swap armadillo’s for possums! ;). I got aardvarks mixed up with armadillo but when you look at them, they ARE very similar 🙂

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        1. I have never seen an aardvark before! But yes, the are very similar! We have a LOT of possums here too, darned it. They are another varmint that seems to enjoy our high protein deer feed! We might as well be feeding the entire woodland!

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          1. I watch the sparrows eat more of our chook food than the chooks! They actually sit on the side of the chook feeder and eat alongside the chooks! Our possums might look cuter than your death maw lot but they are awful things! Earl hates them and tries to catch them whenever they come on the deck. They pee everywhere and their pee stinks to high heavens. I think that’s why Earl hates them so much, their pee smells worse than his! 😉

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          2. That’s hilarious about Earl! Often I see Daisy, the squirrels and the collared doves all down below at the feeder, sharing. We have more trouble with the foxes urinating on our front walkway and my sage plant. Of course then our dogs want to mark the area too! And then there is Daisy deer… she has her spots to mark too, ya know!

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  4. I love animal medicine. There’s always some lesson to be discovered when a fellow traveller crosses our paths. Armadillos seem so prehistoric–part amphibian, part mammal–they demand attention.

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    1. Sandy, I love the term, “fellow traveller”!! I find importance in these “path crossings”. And, over time, each animal presents itself when there is something for us to learn or discover. I believe it happens for everyone, if we only open our eyes and ears.

      I just love these armored critters! Perhaps it is the way they go about minding their own business, doing their work at night, and slumbering during the day while the world is at its most noisy state. I admire these interesting creatures!

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    1. Rachel, I see you in a woodland or mountain cabin, with little critters gathered all around, and birds landing on your shoulders! I hope you get to experience an armadillo up close someday. It was many years before I observed one where I could photograph it well, (that wasn’t dead on the roadside). I learned so much researching them while writing this post. Amazing little critters, aren’t they?

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  5. Hi Sundog,
    I used to see armadillos aka “possum on the half shell” traveling through Texas but their range has been expanding in recent years. Now I have seen them in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Makes me wonder if they are in the Carolina’s yet?

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    1. Hey Louis, the range I was seeing via habitat maps shows only the very southern states, since they’re so susceptible to cold temperatures. So,with the very southern part of Kansas in the map, I would think that the Carolina’s would be a region they might acclimate to also. I don’t think it’s any colder there than it is in south Kansas. I was a little surprised to find the armadillo is a hunted species. I think that, and colder winter temperatures have kept populations down the last years.

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  6. I sure didn’t know that Armadillos were being hunted. Thanks for that as I have learned something new and I have a thirst for learning. There’s another creature that has been expanding their range and I wish it were not so; the Nutria, a native of South America, is a giant rodent that appears to be a giant rat. They first got into the Louisiana bijous as an experiment to keep mink population under control but now they are a problem. Then they started migrating along the Gulf Coast. I saw some first in marsh grass near the Carolina coast but now they are invading Virginia Beach. We should learn a lesson about bringing in non-native species as they often turn into a problem themselves. For instance, kudzu was brought into the American South to control erosion on cutaways along highways but it is now the scourge of the south. That plant can grow 18 inches in ONE day. If only we could use it as biofuel but I have never heard of that being tried. There are many more plants and animals to mention here but it seems we do not learn from our mistakes.

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  7. Lori, I love the armadillos too, and your photographs are great. I didn’t know that they could stand up like that! I had never seen one alive (as opposed to road kill and my girlfriend’s purse in HS) until I moved here to Alabama. Sadly, I recently heard that they are carriers of Leprosy! Guess we won’t be cuddling up to them, even if they do have furry underbellies! 😦

    Here is an article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/health/28leprosy.html?_r=0

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    1. Yes, Lynda, I read that too about the Leprosy. I have seen people chase them, saying it is safe to catch them by the tail (not to be bitten by them). After discovering they are carriers of Leprosy, I think I would be leaving them alone! I’m happy to observe them and capture them with my camera instead!!

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  8. Wow! Being a northerner I have never seen an armadillo! Very helpful medicine for discernment… And long ago I saw Jerry Jeff sing that song, back in my Iowa days! Loved this post.

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    1. Thanks, Margaret! I meant to write about the armadillo since last fall! I am glad I made the time to do so. Our little armored friend deserved a little attention!

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  9. I will never forget seeing a stuffed Fairy Armadillo at London’s Natural History Museum…so sweet, pink and with a fluffy skirt. Your pictures are delightful x

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    1. Margaret, I love that word, “trolling”. Armadillos really are fun to watch. Most of the time they don’t do terrible destruction on the property. I sometimes see them during the daytime hours, but most of the time they “troll” around at night!

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  10. My family attends our state fair ever since we moved when I was 2. When I was 5 or 6 we went to the fair and I got to participate in an armadillo race and won. It is a great memory and this post brought back that wonderful time. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. Oh my goodness! What is an armadillo race? How does that work? I really have a love for these little critters. I don’t like the damage they do, but they’re such an interesting looking species. It’s always interesting what I learn when I photograph a mammal, bird or insect I’m not familiar with. I really discovered a lot about the armadillo while working up this post. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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  11. I love the little armadillo guys ( and hate to see them begging along side of the road)
    They are so funny with their poor eyesight and ears- but they do make a mess of the landscape.
    Love all the pictures. We see them in the park areas around here sometime…they do sound like an army on the march when crashing through brush.

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    1. How funny! I forgot to mention the part about how they “crash” through brush and weeds. I find them very comical and interesting. I know they make a grand mess of lawns and flower beds, but I can deal with that. There are humans with much worse habits!

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  12. Thank you for this one, Lori! 🙂

    Everything I now know about armadillos, I learned… here. They are cute little (?) creatures, and I’ve no doubt I’ll be fascinated by them if we ever meet. Your tendency to learn from the animals you encounter is such a wonderful thing, and I am going to make myself be similarly mindful of available lessons when I come across any being. I sincerely appreciate what you do here to teach me about the beauty and goodness that is in fact alive and well in the world, how to approach it, that there is communication to be had with the world, and that we are all so much more interconnected than most of us realize.

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    1. Well thank you Sid! It has been a long and difficult walk to be where I am today. I am sure there is good reason for that! There always is. Daisy helped me the most, you know. Her alertness caused me to listen and look… really tune out the noises in town (like deer do) and hone in on what might be approaching. I feel every meeting with animals, insects, reptiles, birds… is a message or has a purpose for me. These little armadillos irritate most people because they dig up yards and can do a lot of damage. But, there is wonder and much that is interesting about these little critters. Gosh, when I learned they love to eat grubs, I was cool with them digging around. Grubs do far more damage than an armadillo. Besides, the armadillos I saw this past year were greatly entertaining. How lucky am I to have one of these armored fellows come right up to me and sniff me? That’s just too cool!

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