Animals
 

 

    The passage from the Old Word to the New World in the Columbian Exchange was made by animals as well as humans.  Both the non-domesticated and the domesticated animals made an impact on the New World.  For example some of these impacts were the transformation of the grasslands and revolutionizing of labor. Overgrazing by enormous herds of sheep was the reasons for the transformation of the grasslands and the availability of horse, ass, and ox were responsible for the new power force for the land. 

They difference between the animals on the different sides of the Atlantic was extraordinary.  The natives only had a few animal servants. They had the dog, two kinds of South American Camels, the guinea pig, and several kinds of fowls.  Before the Columbian Exchange the natives had no beast of burden and did their hard labor entirely on their own.  On Columbus’s second voyage in 1493 he brought horses, dogs, pigs, cattle, chickens, sheep, and goats.  When the explorers brought the new animals across the ocean it introduced a whole new means of transportation, a new labor form, and a new food source.  The animals were rarely troubled by the diseases the humans were.  So while the humans died off, the animals were thriving on the rich wildlife. 

The pigs reproduced the fastest and served as meat for the explorers.  Swine herds were found everywhere.  In 1514, pigs had multiplied to about 30,000 in Cuba.  The pig of this time was a little different then today’s pig, it was more like a speedy wild boar.  Pizarro brought pigs with him to Peru in 1531.  Also De Soto brought them with him to Florida, and the thirteen that he brought multiplied to seven hundred three years later.  This just shows us how rapid they were reproducing. 

 

Horses were extremely plentiful in Europe, especially on the Iberian Peninsula.  The explorers brought their horses across the ocean with them because it was such an essential part of their lives.  The first horses arrived with Columbus in 1493.  The voyage across the Atlantic was not an easy one for the horses because of their size. In the beginning the natives were frightened because they had never seen an animal of such size and power. When the explorers were massacring the natives, they horses took a large part in these battles. Not only for speed but because they still terrified the natives. The horse was an important carrier of information for the explorers as well.  They eventually multiplied and became free in the wild.  Three main grasslands that they occupied and multiplied were Pampas of Argentina, Llanos of Venezuela and Columbia, and the central plains of American West stretching from central Mexico to Canada. 

 

The cattle were another very important animal to the New World.  They were brought to Mexico in 1521.  They also were brought by Columbus on his second voyage in 1493.  They were both domestic and wild. Many of the arriving colonists were already cattleman so they adapted well. The cattle were killed for their hides and also their meat.  Their hides were shipped back to Europe and sold. Cattle were one of the biggest assets of the new world because of the exports and the meat.  Their meat supplied the explorers with the nourishment they needed. One of their downfalls was they destroyed the native’s crops because of trampling and grazing. 

The black rat came across to the New World by mistake.  They would stowaway on ships and come across on the colonial ports.  They were new to Bermuda and ended up almost destroying an entire colony.  They carried the diseases that plagued the colonists.  The diseases they carried were bubonic plague and typhus.  In some places they killed off the native smaller animals. 

Along with most of the other animals, sheep came along with Columbus in 1493.  They were more vulnerable to predators so they had a hard time multiplying.  They had trouble protecting themselves and it was very rare for them to run wild. They also carried diseases that helped kill llamas and alpacas.  Sheep and their wool were the basis of America’s first factories. 

Camels never became popular in the New World.  They were killed for food by escaped slaves and were extinct by 1615.  There were goats as well but they weren’t as important and often just lived in the wild.  The donkey’s and mules were never as important as the horse.  They were beasts of burden but just never as popular.  Dogs and cats also came along with the explorers but were mostly domesticated.  The importation of insects, as well as the rat, was by accident.  Such insects as the Asian cockroach, Japanese beetle, Dutch elm disease, killer bees, and gypsy moth came across the Atlantic. 

There was an exchange from the New World to the Old World as well.  Explorers brought back turkeys, llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs to Europe.  These animals did not have as much of an impact on the Old World as the animals brought to the New World had. 

 

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