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Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, by Diego de Landa, tr. William Gates, [1937], at


The Indians are wanting in the possession of many animals, especially those most necessary for the service of man; they have others, most of which they make useful for their support, none however being domestic except the dogs; these do not bark or do harm either to people or to the game, though they aid in trapping the quail and other birds, and join in the hunting of the deer, some of them being fine trackers. They are small, and the Indians eat them at fiestas, though I understand they are ashamed of it, and have poor regard for it. They say that they have a good flavor.

There are tapirs among the dogwood trees only in the country beyond the Campeche hills, where there are many to be found. The Indians have told me that they are of many colors, gray, dappled, bays and chestnuts; others quite white, and also black. They go more in this part of the country than in any other, for it is an animal very fond of the water, and there are many lakes among those woods and sierras. They are of the size of ordinary mules, very light-footed, with cloven hoofs like cattle, and a trunk in which they hold water. The Indians hold it a great achievement to kill them, and preserve the skins even for their great-grandchildren, as I have seen. They call them tzimin, and from that they have given this name to horses.

There are small lions and tigers, which the Indians kill with the bow as they lie on the trees. There is also a certain kind of bear, or quierque, very

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fond of robbing the hives; it is brown with black spots, long bodied, with short legs and a round head. There is a kind of wild goats, small and very fleet, and dark colored.

There are certain small pigs, very different from ours, for they have the navel on the loin, and stink badly. There are a great number of small deer, the meat of which is excellent. There is an infinite number of hares, like ours in all respects save that the nose is long and not at all flat like that of cattle; they are large and good eating.

There is a small animal of sad nature, which goes about in caverns and dark places, or at night; it is similar to the hare, moving by leaps and drawn together, and the Indians hunt it by setting a kind of trap in which it is caught. The front teeth are very long and thin; the tail is still shorter than that of the hare, and it is of a dark greenish color. It is exceedingly tame and friendly, and is called sub [the agouti].

There is another little animal like a newborn pig with its paws and snout, and a great rooter, but all covered with graceful shells so that it looks just like a blanketed horse, with only the ears and feet sticking out, and even its breast and head covered with the shells. It is tender and very good to eat.

There are other animals like little dogs, with a head shaped like a pig's, and a long tail; they are a smoky color, and so sluggish that one often catches them by the tail. They are quite greedy and go about the houses at night, so that no fowl gets away from their slow approach. The female brings forth fourteen to eighteen little ones at a birth, completely hairless and very torpid; but God has provided the mother with a strange sort of pocket in the belly for their protection, the skin over the pocket growing the entire length of the belly, and covering the nipples, concealing them when it is closed. When the mother wishes it so, it opens so that each of the little ones can get a teat into its mouth; when they are all inside she brings the flanks or the skin up and closes it so tightly that none of them can fall out. Then thus laden she goes about in search of her food. She cares for them in this way until they have hair and can walk.

There are foxes in every way like ours, except that they are smaller and without the long tail.

There is an animal the Indians call chic [badger, pisote], which is very mischievous, as large as a small dog, and with a snout like a new pig. The Indian women raise them, and there is not a thing they do not get into and turn upside down; it is a sight to see how fond they are of playing with the women, and how they hunt for fleas; but they will not look at the men for their lives. There are many of these, and they always go about in troops, in a line with the snout of one under the tail of the other, and doing much damage in the fields as they go through.

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There is a small animal like a white squirrel, with dark yellow stripes about the body, which they call pay; this defends itself against those who follow it or hurt it by letting loose its urine, which has such a horrible smell that nobody can tolerate it, nor can anything it touches be taken hold of. They tell me that it is not actually the urine, but a kind of sweat they carry at the back in a bag; be that as it may, its armor defends it so well that only as by a miracle do the Indians ever kill one.

There are many very beautiful squirrels, moles and weasels; and many rats like those of Spain, except that their snouts are longer.


The Indians have not lost, but have gained much with the coming of the Spaniards, even in smaller matters; but there has been much increase in many of the things that come on with the passage of time, at first by force, but which they are now beginning to enjoy and use. There are many and fine horses, and mules and machos. Asses do not do well, and I think their introduction has not been good, for it is without doubt a hard-tempered beast. There are many and fine cows, boars, sheep, ewes, goats, and such of our dogs as suit their needs, and which have come to be regarded as beneficial in the Indies. Cats are very useful and necessary, and the Indians are fond of them.

Hens, pigeons, oranges, limes, citrons, grapes, pomegranates, figs, guavas, dates and bananas, melons and the other legumes; of these only the melons and calabashes grow from their own seeds; for the rest one must bring fresh seeds from Mexico. Silk is now produced, and it is very good. They have received tools, and the use of mechanical devices, and these go well. There is also the use of money and many other things that have come to them from Spain; and although they had gone, and could have gone on without them, yet they live beyond question more as men by having them and their aid in their corporeal activities, and the raising of them; as, by the opinion of the philosopher, art aids nature.

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