Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert: Book VI, Chapter XXXI (About a Property of Cattle Near the Equinoctial Line)

Book VI, Chapter XXXI

About a property of cattle near the equinoctial line, which is a very notable thing.

 Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

Quito is five or six leagues on the other [southern] side of the equinoctial band or line, eighty leagues from Popayan through very mountainous terrain (as certified by Captain Sebastián de Benalcázar and others); and Popayan is two and a half degrees on our side of the equinoctial line, and the river they call Angasmayo is between the territories of Quito and Popayan. It is a wonderful thing that the deer and cattle on Quito’s side never cross the river to this other side, even though they could do it across many places where the river could be forded; nor do those born on this side cross over to the Quito side. There is another notable thing I want to mention here, which I also learned from Governor Benalcázar, who confirmed for me that the deer from the province of the Alcázares (in the direction of Santa Marta) are small, and the ones to the east are large, even though they are separated only by a small hilly wilderness between them. The cause of such things and secrets of nature are hidden, but the effects are visible. Just like in Sigoro[1]–an island dogs never enter and where they wander along river banks and shores and die when brought there from other parts—in many parts of the Mainland, as in Santa Marta and Nicaragua, none of the dogs native to the land (of which I have seen many) ever bark; but those of ours brought there by Spaniards do bark, as they usually do in Spain. Tenupsisambri is a province in Asia, where none of the four-legged animals have ears, including the elephants.[2] Who can know or ponder the reason why a people in India called pandora, who inhabit the valleys, live for two-hundred years, and have grey hair in their youth and black hair in their old age?[3] Or why men are born with a hairy tail and are capable of the highest speed in some parts and are born in another with large ears that cover their entire bodies? These things, as Pliny says, and others like it, are the product of the nature of human generation, which follow a natural course but seem like miracles to us. And the differences mentioned above can likewise be seen in other animals or which I cannot go on writing about without risking long-windedness. But, since my intention is not to tell of things already written by other authors, but of things of note that have come to my notice in these our Indies, I have brought these things written by Pliny to bear to remind the reader that this is a large subject and that there are many other such things in other parts of the world to make humans marvel as have been written about these Indies, and I thus accept the truth of the one and the other.

[1] Pliny, Book VI, Chapter 28. [GFO]

[2] Pliny, Book VI, Chapter 30. [GFO]

[3] Pliny, Book VII, Chapter 2. [GFO]

Image retrieved from the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University