Of the cerval cat.[1]

Translated by Kendal Simmons ’23

The cerval cat is a fierce animal of the shape, manner, and color of the small, brownish, domestic cats that we keep in our homes to fight the war on mice. These cats are also much larger than the tigers and ochís that were discussed in Chapter X. They are the most ferocious animal found in the Mainland and the one which the Christians fear most because they are the most nimble and brazen out of all of the cats seen around here. They are found throughout New Spain and in other parts of the Indies. In the year 1504, I saw one of these cats[2] at the bottom of the cliff of Amboto in Vizcaya as it slid from an uneven patch of ground and died from the impact of the fall. I have seen many tigers and ochís in the Indies and many lions in Spain, Italy, and Flanders, especially in Ghent, in the palace of Caesar, where I saw a very fierce old lion in the year 1516. However, out of all of those, I have never seen an animal with such fierce fangs, teeth, and claws as the animal that I saw by the cliff of Amboto. Such fierce cats are found throughout these Indies, as well as in the land of the great prince, Bogotá, which the Spanish call the New Kingdom of Granada. They have very beautiful fur that is used to make expensive coats for lords and high men of State, and the natives value the cat’s fur greatly.

[1] Gato cerval is the Spanish name for the lynx; judging from Oviedo’s description of the cat’s size as compared to that of the ochí (the name the Cueva Indians of present day Panama gave to the ocelot, which the Spanish called tigers as well), Oviedo could be using this general term to refer to the jaguar or any of the subspecies of puma found in the Americas, the two largest native cat species of the New World. Since he does not provide a detailed description, other than its size and fierce nature, we can only guess as to its identity.

[2] Here Oviedo must be confusing the jaguar or puma with the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), a species found to this day in Northern Spain.