Of three repositories and the same number of animals seen on the Mainland, two of them in the province of Paria, and the third in many parts of the Mainland.

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

Pliny, speaking of water animals, says that the stingray, when poked with a stick or pole, even from far away, can bring torment to any strong or courageous arm, making them run away at top speed;[1] but he never tells us the shape of this animal. And our Spaniards, who have encounter them in these Indies, did not know their name; but they can describe its shape and behavior. Thus this note will be best understood and the animal better known when it is discussed further in Book XXIV, Chapter XIII, where it will be told, reader, how a spotted fish, like a moray eel, as thick as a man’s arm and as long as four hand spans, was caught in the Huyapari river; and it was caught with a net, and brought out to land, and while it remained alive, when touched with a lance or sword or stick, regardless of how far away whoever touched it stood, it instantly produced such pain on the arm, and the pain stunned and numbed the arm in such a way, that it was necessary to let go right away. Many Spaniards tried it out, and so many wanted to understand the secret that they squeezed the fish until they killed it, and when it died that property died with it, and it no longer caused any pain or discomfort to whoever touched it.

There is another animal on the Mainland, in many parts of it, skunks whose stench is unbearable. Their hair is coarse and russet colored, and they are the size of a small vixen or marten; and if one walks upwind of this animal, as the wind blows past it towards a man, even if he is as far away as the distance of one or two crossbow shots, it imbues him with a great and loathsome smell; and it is very dreadful because it seems to penetrate into the person’s entrails for the space of an eighth of an hour, more or less, according to the distance and how frightened the animal is. It happens at times that dogs run into one of them in the fields but they rarely kill them because when chased by a dog it lets out that mighty smell and thus the dog flees from the shocking and disgusting smell and looks at it askew; and it rolls on the ground to get rid of the horribly smelling infusion it has been imbued with and runs to look for water to wash out the stench, which lasts for a few days. And when a foot or cavalry soldier touches it with a lance, the stench climbs up the shaft and permeates the arm and the man and the clothes and he spits and retches, and the stench and revulsion does not go away for a few days, nor does the food he eats taste good; and it is necessary to scrub and fumigate the lance and the clothes several times; and the saddle is likewise left with the same stench and the horse loses his appetite for a few days, as will be written at more length in its proper time in the place mentioned above.

There is a small animal in the province of Paria, about which I will write more particulars elsewhere in the second part of these histories; but I wanted to place here among these notes one single thing, its most notable aspect; and it is that the direction of its hair runs contrary to that of other animals. Because if you run your hand from its head to the end of its tail it goes roughly, against the grain, but if one runs one’s hand from the tip of the tail to the snout, the hair is smooth. It sleeps all day, if it is not awakened to be fed, and it stays up all night without stopping, looking for something to eat, and whistles as it moves around. The Indians of the coast of Paria call it bivana. The fish called acçcipensier is the only one among all fish whose scales are turned in the direction of the mouth.[2]These varieties are the reason nature is beautiful, and sometimes it wants matters of the sea to conform to those of the land, like the stingrays and the skunks as I mentioned above, or the acçcipensier and the bivana. The same author writes that the hair of certain goats runs backwards along its head while that of other goats runs in the opposite direction,[3] which is the same thing I said about the bivana. As I have promised elsewhere all these repositories and notes will be more copiously and more volubly described in their appropriate place, provinces and books.




[1] Pliny, Book XXXII, Chapter I.

[2] Pliny, Book IX, Chapter 17.

[3] Pliny, Book VIII, Chapter 61.