Of the great size of the sea wolves (or monk seals), their different colors and other particularities. 

Translated by Adele Birkenes ‘20

The sea wolves[1] in the oceans of these Indies are numerous and large, found as often between the islands and along the coasts of the Mainland. These are among the most agile and swiftest animals in the ocean, and they are the greatest enemies and prey of the sharks (but it takes many sharks coming together to attack one sea wolf, as I will later describe). They come out of the sea to sleep on land on some of the many islets or along parts of the coasts, and they sleep so deeply and soundly and snore so loudly that they can be heard from far away; and in this way they are often killed at night while sleeping. These animals give birth to two pups, which they breastfeed with two teats they have between their arms, or between the two large flippers that they have in place of arms. They have very beautiful fur, like a very pretty and very deep black velvet, and some are reddish in color and others are a yellowish-brown and of other colors. I said that the fur is beautiful because it surpasses that of the sea wolves of Spain.[2] Between the hide and the meat or flesh or, I should say, the part of this animal that is lean, there is a layer of fat, all the way around its body, as wide as a hand and as high as five fingers, from which very good oil can be extracted for burning in oil lamps, or for cooking eggs and other things, without any rancid or bad flavor. And the rest of this fish is good for eating, but after several days one grows tired of it.

They are very fierce animals and, as I said, great enemies of sharks. One on one the sharks avoid them because the sea wolf is large, some as large as seventeen feet or more in length, and eight feet in width at their widest, and well-armed with teeth and fangs. And even though the sharks are large, they are not as large nor do they dare fight against the sea wolves unless many of them come together against a single sea wolf, and to kill it and avoid risk to themselves they use this trick. Many sharks gather, and when they see a lone sea wolf, they are able to go after it because the sea wolf does not become afraid or concerned; and arranging themselves in a very organized flank for battle, they surround it, and one side and the other of the sharks moves up, tightening the circle and trapping the sea wolf in the middle. After they have surrounded it, without losing time, one of the bravest sharks comes from the side or from behind and bites it; and immediately all the others seize it and hit it, biting and letting go, and the sea wolf causes a lot of damage to the sharks it can reach, but as they are many, in little time they tear it apart, leaving nothing of the animal. And this battle unfolds with so much noise and the water splashes so high from the thumping of their tails that it sometimes hits the highest mast of the caravels, which is truly a sight to behold. And there where this fight occurred, the sea water is bloodied both by the blood lost by the sea wolf and by that of the sharks wounded in the fight. This cannot be seen so readily or as particularly as I have told here, if it is not by fortune, or better said, by misfortune, as it happened to Alonso Zuazo, current judge in this Royal Audience, who resides in this city of Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola. While he and other Christians were lost in the Alacranes cays, they witnessed many times what I have described, as will be told at length in the last Book of the Shipwrecks, which will tell of the perils of this judge and those who found themselves lost with him. Another thing of note about this sea wolf animal is that the fur of the belts, straps and bags made from its hide flattens when the tide is low and rises when the tide rises. This is very often experienced, and every day it is seen in any belt or other object made from the sea wolf’s hide; and all of the changes that the ocean undergoes are mirrored in the fur of these animals.

From what is said above of the birth and breastfeeding of their offspring, I believe that those which we call sea wolves are the same that Pliny calls “old sailor” in his Natural History.

Aside from this, people say that belts made from the hide of these sea wolves are very good for those suffering from back pain; and in truth they look nice, especially those that are black and made from the hide of old sea wolves, as they are most dense with thick fur. And this is enough about the sea wolves of these parts.

[1] Neomonacus tropicalis or Caribbean monk seals. [EE]

[2] Monachus monachus or the Mediterranean monk seal. [EE]