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Desert Diary


Unlike in the Old World, North American natives had few domesticated animals. Dogs and turkeys were about it. Admittedly, the much greater area of Eurasia and Africa might be part of the reason. An animal domesticated in one place could spread easily throughout. It's interesting to speculate, though, on what might have been the situation in the New World if so many hoofed animals had not become extinct here at the end of the Ice Age.

Until the mass extinction of that time, we had species that were close relatives of kinds that were successfully domesticated in Eurasia or Africa. A number of species of horses were common, as were at least a couple kinds of camels. Even several members of the cattle family were about. Isn't it just possible that had these extinct forms survived a few more thousands years, into the time when Old Worlders were beginning animal husbandry, we too might have tamed the wild ones. Indeed, perhaps invading Spaniards would have found Native Americans traversing our Chihuahuan region with home-grown ships of the desert.
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest. rule

Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

drawing of Camelops

Sketch of Camelops, a common late Ice Age North American camel. Sketch by F.E. Schwein.