Of the dogs that lived on this Island of Hispaniola and those living here at present.

Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

There were domesticated gozques (a type of small dog) on this island of Hispaniola and on all the islands on this gulf now inhabited by Christians. There are none at present, but when there were, the Indians raised them in their houses and used them to hunt all the other animals of which I have written in the previous chapters. These dogs came in all the colors of the dogs we have in Spain, some in just one color and others spotted in black and white or in auburn and reddish grey, or the same hair colors they have in Castile. Some have matted curly hair and others have straight hair. But most of them have hair between straight and bristly, coarser than that of our dogs, and their ears are pointed and erect, like those of wolves. All the dogs in this and other islands were mute, not knowing how to bark even if they were being beaten or killed; some yelped or moaned softly when they were hurt. The Spaniards who came with the first Admiral, on the second voyage he made to this island, ate all of these dogs because they were dying of hunger and had nothing else to eat; but to those who are accustomed to it, it is not a dish to disdain. They can be found in large numbers in many parts of the Mainland and New Spain; I have seen them in the province of Santa Marta and later I saw many in the Governorship of Nicaragua. I have tasted them, and they are a good dish; well, the truth is that when I tasted it I didn’t know it was dog meat until I had eaten two or three bites. I arrived where some friends were eating a very fat one, well roasted and basted with garlic, and it did not taste bad; seeing that I had partaken willingly and heartily, one of my friends said: “Sir, it would not be a bad idea to take some of the dogs from here with us, since they taste so good to you.” In truth I regretted having eaten it and did not eat more; otherwise I would not have stopped eating until it was all finished, but since I had already eaten it, I can say that it tasted very good to me and I wished they had not alerted me until later. The fact is that the Spaniards who have tried it praise this delicacy and say it is no less tasty than goat meat.

In that province of Nicaragua, where they speak the same language as in New Spain, they call these dogs xulos, and they raise a lot of them. When the Indians celebrate a major feast they eat these dogs as the best and most prized dish of all, and no one eats the head if he is not the calachuni or teyte, that is, the king or most principal person at the celebration; after removing the hair, they stew the xulo whole—skin, bones, and all—in a stew like a milky maize pudding, or in a sauce made with milk and flour or some other starch. And if the cacique or lord doesn’t want it, after he has tasted a bit of the head (thus cooked), he offers it out of his own hand to the one he wants to honor most among the guests.

As to these dogs not barking, it being such a natural thing for gozques and dogs of all sorts to bark, it is a unique thing in comparison to those of Europe and other parts of the world. But nature creates these differences and others in different animals and climates; as a modern poet I met in Italy (one very highly regarded in that land), called Seraphin del Águila, wrote in a sonnet or verses of his that spoke of nature and its different effects:

Per tropo variar, natura è bella.

Nature is beautiful in its frequent variations. So that in various regions strange things are found and produced in the same species of animals. And as to the silence of these dogs, I have found written by Pliny[1] that in Çirene the frogs are mute, and that if you take them from that land to another, they sing; and the same author says that in the island of Seripho the cicadas are mute, and that if you take them out of that province to another, they sing. Remembering this, I wished to test if these mute dogs, would bark if taken to another land; so I took one of these small dogs from the province of Nicaragua to the city of Panama, a distance of 300 leagues from one province to the other, but it remained mute (this dog, which I had raised and was very domesticated, was stolen from me when I left for Spain). And the fact that it remained mute in Panama was not of much wonder, since it is the same coast and Mainland, and as I have said, the dogs belonging to these parts and islands are all similarly mute. Other than the five different species I have mentioned in the previous chapters, there were no other terrestrial, four-legged, haired animals on this island or this gulf, except for mice, of which there were many and more than we had any need for.

[1] Pliny, Book VIII, Chapter 66. [GFO]