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Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Survival of Prehistoric horses in South America until the Discovery of America


SSome time ago, I posted on the possible survival of pre-hispanic horses in Southern South America. That is, that native American horses managed to survive extinction (as mainstream science argues) until the arrival of the horses brought "back" to America from Europe by the Spanish explorers and "Conquistadors"


In my post (Extant Extinct Patagonian Ponies), I wrote:


"... A book published by Sir Edwin Ray Lankester (1847-1927) was a British naturalist and professor at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. In a book published in 1910, he wrote the following:
It is also said that the Araucanian Indians of Patagonia have a peculiar breed of ponies, which may be derived in part from a native South American stock. I have never been able to procure a skull of this breed
Unfortunatley, Lankaster does not mention his sources! So I must keep on digging through books till I find them..."

Well, I have come across Sir Edwin's book and the full quote is the following (he mentions Cabot too, which is a new lead to follow):


"...there is evidence in South America of the co-existence there of peculiar kinds of horse with the "Indian" natives. It is even alleged that Cabot, in 1530, saw horses in Argentina, which were the last survivors of the native South American Species. And it is also said that the Araucanian Indians of Patagonia have a peculiar breed of ponies which may be derived in art from a native South American stock. I have never been able to procure a skull of this breed, or any detailed description of it." [1]

Sebastian Cabot the mariner


An earlier book written in 1891 by William Flower addresses the same issue and points out that it is surprising that the horse died out in America since the European one found "...the climate, food and other circumstances highly favorable to their existence" [2].


The author adds, that:


"The usual statement as to the complete extinction of the horse in America is thus qualified, as there is a possibility of the animal having still existed, in a wild state, in some parts of the continent remote from that which was first visited by the Spaniards, where they were certainly unknown.
It has been suggested that the horses which were found by Cabot in La Plata in 1530 cannot have been introduced. See M. "Wilckens's " Forschungen auf dem Gebiete der Palaontologie der Hausthiere" (Biolog. Centralblat., 1889)
[2].

So we have another reference to Sebastian Cabot, (ca. 1474 - ca. 1557) a Venetian explorer who worked for the Kings of England and Spain. He set sail to North and South America.


It is probable that he sighted the horses mentioned by Sir Edwin and Mr. Flower, during his Expedition to the River Plate (1526-1529). Actually he was to set sail and follow Magellan's route to the Spice Islands in the Far East via the Strait of Magellan. But he heard about gold and silver from the natives along the Southern coast of Brazil.


This changed his course: he went into the River which another Spaniard, Solís had discovered in 1516 (known as Solís River), and renamed it "Silver River" (Río de la Plata - which in English has been deformed into River Plate. Plate a phonetic equivalent to Plata -silver).


He sailed up stream and set up a fort with a village at the mouth of the Carcaraña River on the Paraná River. This was actually the first Spanish enclave in what is now Southern South America and Argentina: Sancti Spiritus (Latin for "Holy Ghost").


Ciudad de los Césares: City of Caesars


What the Brazilian natives had told him was true, there was gold and silver upstream in the mountains in the Inca Empire (Peru and Bolivia) which would be conquered by Francisco Pizarro in the 1530s. But Cabot was too far away and lacked horses.


He sent off some groups of explorers north and west to find the wealth. Only one group returned, that of Captain César, who came back with some gold and stories of fantastically wealthy cities inhabited by white men... the Ciudad de los Césares (City of Caesars - the Caesar part is due to the name of the Captain: César, Spanish for Caesar). The "Eldorado" myth of Chile, Argentina and, especially, Patagonia.


The natives grew hostile and burned the settlement. Cabot gave up and returned to Spain to face the angry King (he had disobeyed his orders and had not gone to the Spice Islands).


He was tried and condemned to exile in North Africa but Cabot told the King about the potential of the region and was apparently pardoned and remained Pilot-Major of Spain until 1547.

His Map

The horse reported by Cabot was drawn in his "Tabula del gran río" (1533?) and in a later World Map. Below is a detail showing the "horse" and the Paraná River.


Cabot map
Detail of Cabot's map (1533)

He correctly depicts a jaguar and a parrot next to the horse. Why draw a horse? Only if it was a local native animal, otherwise there is no reason for one in the map.


Of course, he may have made the whole thing up. And that is what Mr. Walker Demarquis Wyman writes:"Since no future navigators reported seeing native horses, and since the Indian obviously had not known the horse before the Spanish introduced it, it seems clear that Cabot, in the words of E. L. Trouessart, "is a liar"" [3].


To be continued...


We will see in my next post why the other navigators did not see horses and also learn why the Indians did know about their existence prior to the arrival of the European horses.


Sources

[1] Sir Ray Lankester, (1925). Science From An Easy Chair. pp. 89-90

[2] Flower, William Henry, (1891) The Horse, A study in Natural HistoryD. Afplkton and Co.

[3] Walker Demarquis Wyman. Wild Horses of the Wes. pp 40.



Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

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