Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Development of Horses in America – Part III

Continued from the previous post regarding horses in the Americas.
    There are those that claim “the Book of Mormon does not ever say that anyone rode horses or used them in battle,” however, the disciple Nephi writes: “in the seventeenth year, in the latter end of the year, the proclamation of Lachoneus had gone forth throughout all the face of the land, and they had taken their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance, and did march forth by thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed that they should gather themselves together, to defend themselves against their enemies” (3 Nephi 3:22).
    The understanding of this is related to war. In fact, “Gidgiddoni did cause that they should make weapons of war of every kind, and they should be strong with armor, and with shields, and with bucklers, after the manner of his instruction” (3 Nephi 3:26). The point is, that the Nephites were gathered together to defend themselves against “those armies of robbers had prepared for battle, and began to come down and to sally forth from the hills, and out of the mountains, and the wilderness, and their strongholds, and their secret places, and began to take possession of the lands, both which were in the land south and which were in the land north, and began to take possession of all the lands which had been deserted by the Nephites” (3 Nephi 4:1).
    The point is, Gidgiddoni was preparing the Nephites for years of warfare with the Robbers who claimed they had the birthright to the land and the government. In that preparation, Gidgiddoni had the Nephites bring “all their horses and chariots” into the land where they had gathered to defend themselves against their enemies. And in that preparation they made weapons for their defense. Consequently, the material items they made and their horses and chariots were part of that preparation.
The Plains Indians among others developed an early horse culture, claiming it was long before the Europeans arrived

The southwestern Indians developed a horse culture, raiding Spanish ranches and missions for their horses, and ultimately breeding and raising their own herds. The Indian horse culture quickly spread throughout western America. Navajo and Apache raids for horses on Spanish and Pueblo settlements began in the 1650s or earlier (Frank McNitt, Navajo Wars: Military Campaigns, Slave Raids, and Reprisals. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972, p11). Through the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Indians acquired many horses. By the 1750s the Plains Indians horse culture was well established from Texas to Alberta, Canada. The Navajo, in addition to being among the first mounted Indians in the U.S., were unique in developing a pastoral culture based on sheep stolen from the Spanish. By the early 18th century, the Navajo households typically owned herds of sheep. Thus, from 1680, thousands of horses were released into the hands of Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo Indians. From this point onward, all of these marginal desert tribes maintained large herds of horses. Most of these mounts were light ranching horses of the Spanish-Arabian breed.
    Consequently, most leading scholars in history, anthropology and geography, all claimed that none of the Native Tribes had horses until after Columbus. On the other hand, elders of the Plains Indian Tribes claimed that “our ancestors always had horses.”
    Indeed, the oldest surviving travel account of an overseas explorer in the American Southwest comes from the Afghani Buddhist Monk, Hui Shen. He sailed to the West Coast of Fu Sang during the 5th century AD. According to the monk, the Native People of Fu Sang (ancient Mexico) On the East Coast of the US there was a similar account dating to the 13th century. According to Bjorn of Iceland, he fell overboard while landing his dory in the Atlantic surf. He was rescued by a party “riding on horseback.
    Everywhere that explorers traveled along the Eastern Seaboard of North America during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, they reported seeing Indians riding horses. When John Cabot landed along the East Coast in 1497, he reported seeing “the dung of draft animals” (such as horses and cattle). Evidently, the Natives kept their livestock “out of sight” due to quite reasonable fears that alien visitors who landed along their shores might take cattle for a festive evening meal.
    When French navigator and explorer Jacques Cartier reached the region of Quebec in 1535, five years before it is claimed that the Spanish explorers Hernando de Soto or that of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado brought horses to the Americas, his Native host informed him that there was a tribe in the Far West where the Indians rode on horses.
    On the other hand, none of the Coastal Tribes in the Northeast that were known to French, English, and Dutch explorers in the 16th century raised horses or cattle. However, when Colonial Pioneers crossed the Appalachian Mountains on their way into Kentucky and Tennessee in the 17th century, they encountered Shawnee, Cherokee, and Chickasaw Tribes that had an exceptional breed of horses. Their smooth walking gait made them attractive for trade and theft.
These smooth-gaited horses were called “Chickasaws.” Similar smooth-gaited horses in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida were called “Seminole ponies” or “prairie ponies.” One Colonial trader noted that the Eastern Forest Horse was “different” from European breeds. They were so-common along the Frontier that settlers said they were “pests,” because they wandered into farmyards and munched on garden vegetables.
    In defense of the Spanish bringing horses, there is the story of DeSoto who helped defeat the Inca Empire, returned to Spain, married, and secured the governorship of Cuba, with the privilege of exploring and conquering Florida and the land to the north and west. His quest ended when he died of fever on the shore of the Mississippi River in May, 1542. The remnants of his forces, led by Luis Moscoso, traveled west and south to Texas in a vain attempt to reach Mexico overland. Failing in this, they returned to the Mississippi and built a fleet of seven brigantines on which they embarked with 22 horses, all that were left of their original 243.
    It is claimed that as the Spaniards sailed down the river they killed the horses one by one for food, until only five or six of the best were left. These they turned loose in a small, grassy meadow near the mouth of the river. Legend has it that these horses remembered the plains of Texas and wished to return there. They swam the river, splashed through a hundred miles of swamps and marshes, and finally reached open country with abundant grass. Here, supposedly, they settled down and reproduced at a prodigious rate. Soon their offspring covered the Texas plains and attracted the attention of the local Indians, who knew how to catch and train them from having seen the Spanish ride by on such animals years ago.
    However, stubborn facts undermine this pretty tale. First, one of the Spaniards in Moscoso’s party said later that Indians came out of the bushes and shot the liberated horses full of arrows even before the Spanish boats had passed beyond the next bend. Second, even if they had survived, the route to the west was impassable for horses, which in any case had no way of knowing the direction to take to reach Texas. Third, and finally, these war horses were all stallions. The Spanish rode no other kind to battle. For these reasons it is obvious that de Soto’s animals could not have stocked the western plains with horses, wild or tame.
    The “horse situation” was much different in Mexico. When Hernando Cortés invaded the Aztec Nation in 1519, he brought along heavy Spanish horses to carry his armored cavalry. Native horses were nowhere to be seen. The lack of Native horses probably had several causes: the hot, dry climate of Mexico was unsuitable for either horses or their favorite habitat—grasslands. Another problem was an abundance of mosquitoes that carried malarial parasites as well as bacteria that causes the deadly disease of equine encephalitis. Mexicans gained most of their food from chinampas (or “floating gardens”) and from maize, squash, and bean agriculture. Laborers cultivated fields. Thus, horses were not essential for farming.
As the Spanish Conquistadors expanded their fighting into Central America, Peru, and Argentina, thousands of heavy horses were imported from Barcelona in order to supply the needs of armored cavalry. Spanish farmers established vast fields for the cultivation of wheat, barley, and oats. These were crops that relied upon cultivation by heavy draft animals. By the mid-16th century, ranches were established for cattle in order to meet the growing demand for beef as a principal part of the Spanish diet. It was at this point that light, ranching horses were imported into New Spain, or Mexico.
    Spanish administrators realized that Natives could pose a threat of rebellion if they ever acquired horses. Thus, regulations in every hacienda and city forbade the sale of horses to the Indians. Nevertheless, Spanish caballeros required the assistance of Indian laborers whom they trained in the skills of vaqueros or “cowboys.” Invariably, a few horses, escaped; or they were stolen by enterprising Indians.
    In 1680, Indians living in the New Mexico City of Oñate overwhelmed their Spanish overlords. Thousands of horses were released into the hands of Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo Indians. From this point onward, all of these marginal desert tribes maintained large herds of horses. Most of these mounts were light ranching horses of the Spanish-Arabian breed.
(See the next post, “The Long History of Horses in America – Part IV,” for more on the  evidence that horses were known in the Americas before Columbus)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks I appreciate all you do Del this is a really important topic