If you’ve ever been in a Santa Fe home with Saltillo tile floors (a type of terracotta tile that originates in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico) you may have noticed a tile here or there that has paw prints. You probably wondered: what’s the story?
In the Saltillo tile manufacturing process, wet clay tiles are laid in wide open spaces where they semi-dry in the sun. Once the tiles are dry enough to move to a kiln, they are removed from the ground and kiln-fired in order to fully harden. While laid about on the ground, animals who are common to the area roam and wander and leave their marks on the tiles.
The most common animals to roam the grounds where Saltillo tiles are drying in the sun can include (but are not limited to): coyotes, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, birds, and even wolves in rare circumstances. Dog and coyote paw prints are the most common to find.
There is actually a superstition in the Southwest United States and Northern Mexico that every house with a floor laid with Saltillo tile must have a “protector” tile set within its boundaries for good luck. That protector tile will bear the imprint of an animal’s foot print and is often laid in a very visible area. If you have such a tile in your Santa Fe home, lucky you! But if you are not the superstitious type, then at least you have a good conversation piece to share with guests!