|(Image by Sutori)|
Christopher Columbus introduced horses, sugar plants, and disease to the New World, while facilitating the introduction of New World commodities like sugar, tobacco, chocolate, and potatoes to the Old World.One of the most impactful transplants was "Isabella's Pigs" (Kenneth C. Davis. America's Hidden History):
The process by which commodities, people, and diseases crossed the Atlantic is known as the Columbian Exchange.
Isabella is credited as the one who encouraged Columbus to take some pigs aboard ship, along with dogs and horses.In honor of Columbus Day I had some bacon this morning.
Once introduced to the New World, Isabella’s pigs became one of the staples of Spanish armies and colonists. Able to forage for themselves and remarkably fertile, the pigs provided a valuable source of easily transported and self-perpetuating protein. For the conquistador on the move, the pigs offered many advantages, according to historian Charles Hudson: “Pigs are the most efficient food producers that can be herded…. A pig’s carcass yields 65 percent to 80 percent dressed meat…. A four-ounce serving of pork yields 402 calories…. Pigs are unusually fecund. A female as young as nine months may become pregnant, and she can give birth to as many as twelve in a litter…. Thus a herd of pigs can increase prodigiously within a few years.”
Along with the side benefit of producing fertilizer in the form of manure, these pigs offered one other very estimable advantage to Spanish Christians, as Hudson points out. “They ate pork not only for sustenance but also to remove any suspicion that they were Jews.”
Perhaps the greatest unintended consequence of this mobile mess hall may have been the waves of disease that are credited with wiping out so much of the native American populace the Spanish encountered.....Charles C. Mann fingers the pigs, the “ambulatory meat locker,” as the possible culprit behind the deadly epidemics that swept the New World’s original inhabitants. “Swine, mainstays of European agriculture, transmit anthrax, brucellosis, leptospirosis, trichinosis, and tuberculosis. Pigs breed exuberantly and can pass disease to deer and turkeys, which then can infect people…. Only a few…pigs would have to wander off to contaminate the forest.