“Huech” a sacred animal for the ancient Maya

It is known in different ways depending on the area, for example, in Yucatan it is called "Huech" and in the Peninsula it is called "tatú". (Photo: La verdad Noticias)

The Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is a species of mammal that is related to anteaters and sloths.

It is known in different ways depending on the area, for example, in Yucatecan it is called “Huech” and in the rest of the Peninsula, Belize and Guatemala it is known as “Tatú“.

Its distribution is very wide, since they can be found from the south of the United States, to the north of Argentina. Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula is part of its habitat.

They are found mainly in humid areas, having activity at night, helped by their acute sense of smell and hearing.

Its food consists of insects and larvae, as well as tuberous roots, earthworms, snails, small amphibians, or even termites and ants.

Its body is its main feature, it is a kind of armor that is covered with hard rings, from its head to its back, depending on the species, can be from 5 to 9.

Its coating has ribbons interspersed between skin and shell. These rings are made of bone material.

They are small animals, measuring 50 centimeters in average, and weighing up to 8 kilograms. Their legs are short, but in spite of them they are agile and fast runners, and can jump 90-120 cm in height.

They have a black color with white and beige parts. They have four pointy nails on their front legs and five on their rear legs.

Armadillos have the ability to inflate their intestines to float and thus be able to cross rivers. They can even perform apnea (hold their breath) for up to 6 minutes.

Their claws allow them to dig their burrows with agility. They build interconnected caves during their reproductive stage that goes from August to November.

On average, females give birth to four young per litter, that remain in the shelter of their burrow until they reach the necessary age to fend for themselves. They are breastfed by their mother before they can start eating insects.

They are highly prized by Europeans and Asians because they can only be found in the American continent. Its fat is functional in medicinal use, for the elaboration of cough syrups, and the treatment of bronchitis, asthma, rheumatism and sores.

The Maya; related to the Huech with the constellations and the dark symbolism of the underworld.

The prehispanic settlers of the Maya area considered that their nine bands are related to the World Tree, with the 9 strata or levels of the underworld that, added to the 13 higher levels, make up the 22 levels of life. It is the proper way to honor the souls that preceded and gave life to the ancestors.


The Maya related the Huech with the constellations and the dark symbolism of the underworld. The prehispanic settlers of the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America considered that their nine bands are related to the World Tree, with the 9 strata or levels of the underworld that, added to the 13 higher levels, make up the 22 levels of life.

In this armadillo armor one can clearly see the triangles and circles that appear as designs in ceramic vessels of pre-Hispanic origin, one can also see the nine flexible bands of the carapace. (Photo: diariodelsureste.com.mx)

In Yucatan, the Armadillo or “Huech” is considered as exotic food, which is why the population have been decreasing, and in 2010 the species was officially granted protection from NOM-059 as an endangered species.

Source: diariodelsureste.com.mx







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