Kendal Simmons ’23: Book XII, Chapter XI (About the Animal Called Beori That the Christians Call Danta or Tapir)

Book XII, Chapter XI

About the animal called beori that the Christians call danta or tapir and a few call cows in the Mainland.

 Translated by Kendal Simmons ‘23

The Spanish in the Mainland call danta or tapir an animal that the Indians (in the province of Cueva) call beori. They gave it this name due to the hide of this animal being very thick, but they are not tapirs and to name them so is as inappropriate as calling an ochí a tiger. As adults, these tapirs are the same size as a year-old calf. Their fur is dark brown, somewhat thicker than that of the buffalo, and they do not have horns, even though some call them cows. Their meat is very good, even though it is more tender than that of the cows of Spain. The hooves of this animal are a very good delicacy and are very flavorful, but they must be boiled for twenty or more hours (I mean to say that they must be very boiled) because they take time to cook thoroughly. But once that is done, this delicacy is for anyone who enjoys eating a good-tasting and easily-digestible thing. They kill these tapirs with dogs; after the dogs sequester the tapir, the hunter must diligently come to their aid before the tapir has the chance to enter a body of water, if there is water nearby. This is because after the tapir enters the water, river, or lake, it uses the water as leverage against the dogs and kills them by biting forcefully. However, when the tapir is captured out of the water, it is not as interested in biting the dogs or in defending itself as it is in escaping back to the water. After it enters the water, it does the opposite: it can bite off a greyhound’s arm and half of its back and remove several inches of skin, just as if it were skinned. I have seen both of these occurrences, which indicate that the tapirs behave less viciously out of the water.

As of now, the Christians do not know how to tan the hide of this animal nor do they make good use of it because they do not lend themselves to it. However, the tapir’s hide is as thick or even thicker than that of the buffalo and I believe that if the leather armor made for the horses of cavalry soldiers was made of tapir, it would be equally as good as the leather armor made in Naples or wherever it is made best. These animals often lick their paws, like bears do, because of some specialty or pleasure that is found in doing so. Consequently, the hands of bears also taste very good. I saw in Mantua that Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua, bred and fattened up small bears and I saw him treat this delicacy as if it were prized. I tried it there and it did not taste bad to me, and I even say that the paws of the tapir are better than those of the bear. They do not care to eat the feet, which, like the hands, split twice so as to form three claws; the tail is very short and the ears are long.