New Mexico's Spanish Livestock Heritage
Four Centuries of Animals, Land, and People
Publication Year: 2013
The Spanish introduced European livestock to the New World—not only cattle and horses but also mules, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry. This survey of the history of domestic livestock in New Mexico is the first of its kind, going beyond cowboy culture to examine the ways Spaniards, Indians, and Anglos used animals and how those uses affected the region’s landscapes and cultures.
The author has mined the observations of travelers and the work of earlier historians and other scholars to provide a history of livestock in New Mexico from 1540 to the present. He includes general background on animal domestication in the Old World and the New during pre-Columbian times, along with specific information on each of the six livestock species brought to New Mexico by the early Spanish colonists. Separate chapters deal with the impacts of Spanish livestock on the state’s native population and upon the land itself, and a final chapter explains New Mexico’s place in the larger American livestock scene.
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Preface: Thoughts from Josiah Gregg’s Commerce of the Prairies
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So wrote this frail introvert who would be recognized as the outstanding
chronicler of the West in his day. Indeed, his account of the
time he spent as a trader on the Santa Fe Trail from 1831 to 1840 has
become a classic of western Americana. Gregg traveled in New Mexico a
good deal of that time, and his carefully documented observations provide
a perfect snapshot of life in the territory the nineteenth century enfolded.
Spanish livestock had thrived in New Mexico for well over two hundred years before Josiah Gregg crisscrossed the territory; however, his narrative provides insight into an industry then in transition. In addition, his perspective is singularly different from that of the earlier Hispanic travelers...
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1: The Background
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When crops, foods, and agricultural techniques from the Old
World made their way from Spain to the Caribbean, to inland
Mexico, then up El Camino Real with don Juan de Oñate to
northern New Mexico in 1598, the Southwest and its people would be
The introduction of domestic animals by those soldiers, colonists, and Franciscan missionaries was destined to profoundly impact the lives of New Mexico’s Puebloan and other Native American residents. The meat component of the people’s diet would gradually shift from strictly wild animal fare to...
2: The Animals: Ganado Mayor,/em>
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Spaniards typically refer to horses, donkeys, mules, cattle, and oxen as ganado mayor (larger domestic animals). Sheep and goats are known as ganado menor. Pigs and chickens are not categorized.
Though long absent when the Spaniards arrived upon the scene, relatives of modern horses were widespread in New Mexico and across much of North America during the last major ice age, which peaked in the Late Pleistocene some eighteen thousand years ago. This was a time when so-...
3: The Animals: Ganado Menor plus Pigs and Chickens
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The early human control over sheep and goats was nearly identical for
both animals. Both animals were domesticated for their meat in the
region of the Fertile Crescent. Modern sheep are descendants of the
wild Asiatic urial sheep, first herded on the grasslands in the eastern part
of the Crescent as long as nine thousand years ago.
The great advantage sheep and goats have over the larger ruminants is their ability to digest the cellulose in native grasses and coarse woody shrubs. Their complex stomachs convert it into usable products...
4: European Livestock Arrives in America
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Disregarding the cattle that are known to have been kept at a short-lived Viking settlement in Newfoundland around AD 1000, European livestock didn’t reach the New World until Columbus’s second voyage, which began in 1493. This was a much larger undertaking than his voyage of discovery the previous year, and its purpose was to establish a permanent colony in what he believed until his death was Asia. Besides all the provisions, tools, and equipment needed to outfit a small...
5: Driving Herds of Animals
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When more than seven thousand animals accompanied Don Juan de Oñate in 1598 on the grandest entrada of all, domestic live-stock would become a permanent fixture in New Mexico. As the expedition got under way, Juan de Frías Salazar performed the required official inspection of the party. His meticulous examination resulted in a comprehensive documentation of most everything Oñate, his soldiers, and the colonists were transporting. The livestock component totaled (in ...
6: Tumultuous Times
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Livestock-related grievances undoubtedly played a major role in the growing discontent among the Pueblo Indians, who finally did over-throw the Spanish yoke in August 1680 in what would turn out to be the most successful revolt ever by Native Americans in the New World. By that time, stock raising had become a major occupation in the province. Santa Fe alone had enclosures to hold five thousand sheep and goats, four hundred horses and mules, and three hundred beef cattle, as reported in a ...
7: The 1800s
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Twenty-five years after Father Domínguez compiled his comprehensive report on New Mexico’s missions, a group of twenty priests surveyed most of the province and delivered another thorough account of life there. The 1801 Priests Report concluded that weaving wool was far and away the most important economic activity at the time, particularly in pueblos that had ...
8: Anglos Gain the Upper Hand
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By the mid-1800s, the hub of cattle ranching in New Mexico was beginning to shift from the Rio Grande valley to the territory’s eastern plains. Then came the Civil War, which proved to be a turning point for livestock operations in New Mexico. Confederate troops from Texas invaded southern New Mexico in 1861 and swept up the Rio Grande the following year, only to be routed immediately after the Battle of Glorieta As the war began, Union troops were depleted from forts along the New ...
9: Closing Out the Century
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The arrival of the first steam engine in Lamy, just outside Santa Fe, in 1880, not only opened up markets in the Midwest and East to the delivery of livestock from New Mexico but also brought an eventual influx of Anglo-Americans to the territory. Land values shot up dramatically; land speculation became rampant; and gradually, through fraudulent, deceitful, or legitimate means, Anglos acquired many of the old Spanish and Mexican land grants or at least portions of them. Part of the problem ...
10: The 1900s and Beyond
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When the twentieth century was coming to a close, the highly regarded Jemez Pueblo historian Joe Sando wrote:
The time honored vocation of stock raising has reached its peak, since the population is steadily increasing and all the families At the beginning of the century, sheep remained the dominant range animal throughout much of the West. New Mexico’s sheep population ...
11: Livestock in New Mexico Today
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The focus of the livestock scene in New Mexico today is almost solely on cattle.1 Ninety-eight percent of all livestock sales are from cattle or the milk produced by them. That cattle account for the most sales and thus are New Mexico’s top cash crop (followed by pecans) speaks volumes. Cattle numbers have remained within the range of one to two million for more than ...
12: The Impact on New Mexico’s Native Peoples
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The introduction of useful domesticated animals clearly had a far greater impact upon Pueblo Indians in New Mexico than did the arrival of Old World crop plants or agricultural technology. After all, these were people who had been accomplished farmers of corn and squash for three thousand years, with beans, bottle gourds, and cotton added to the mix long before Spaniards arrived on the scene. Living in apartment-like dwellings, the Pueblo Indians were indeed urban farmers. They developed ...
13: Impacts upon the Land
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It’s a challenge to come up with any beneficial long-term effects upon
New Mexico’s natural environment that may have resulted from the
arrival of Spanish livestock. The sudden injection of large alien creatures
onto any landscape almost always results in widespread and long-lasting
disruption to an existing vegetational regime.
Humans are known to have occupied New Mexico for at least ten thousand years (probably much longer), and wherever people live, they invariably transform the natural ecosystem, both directly and indirectly. Witness
14: New Mexico’s Place in the American Scene
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Coronado’s introduction of domestic animals from the Old World
into New Mexico in 1540 was not the first time that Native people
witnessed the presence of European livestock. The first occurrence
took place in Florida.1
Juan Ponce de León, a member of Columbus’s second voyage in 1493, headed an expedition that landed on the coast of Florida and explored the interior twenty years later—in 1513. Whether or not horses accompanied his men on their brief landings ashore is unknown, but if they had, it would have...
Epilogue: Reflections by Modern-Day Hispanic, Puebloan, Navajo, and Anglo Representatives
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The perception of how the introduction and proliferation of European livestock over the years transformed the lives of people and communities differs widely among Hispanic, Native, and Anglo residents today. To help me gain an understanding of those differences, I interviewed a Hispanic farmer-scholar, a Puebloan tribal leader, a Navajo educator, and an Anglo cattle rancher. While the interviewees cannot precisely represent the views of their own ethnic groups as a whole, their thoughts do largely ...
Addendum: Resources for Learning About New Mexico’s Livestock History
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For readers who wish to learn more about New Mexico’s livestock his-tory and to view exhibits and artifacts that connect with that story, the state has a wealth of museums and visitor centers, the majority of them along Interstate 25. Some, like the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, occupy many acres and chronicle the entire span of the state’s livestock history. Others, such as Fort Union National Monument near Las Vegas, concentrate on a single location, ...
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013