Pigs in Barbados?

I came across an interesting article in one of the history ezines that make it into my inbox (and of course I can’t find it now), that was about pigs living in Barbados. Having just had the pleasure of going to Barbados this past February, (did not spot any pigs though) I was a bit intrigued. Naturally, there is no reason for pigs to be on that Caribbean island, as they are an “Old World”* species and not native to the Americas. So, what’s the deal?

Their presence on Barbados has historically caused some confusion because there happens to be a particularly interesting map from 1657 that clearly includes an illustration of what appears to be some type of pig-like creature. So future settlers and historians alike were left wondering, how did they get there? I’m sure there were ideas that oh must have been sailors, but there was no evidence to precisely prove when the pigs arrived.

Image courtesy of IFL Science. This is the map drawn in 1657 by Richard Ligon. I absolutely love the title in the upper right hand corner. Nope not long winded at all! And that definitely looks like some type of boar/pig to me.

Until a scientist discovered the jaw bone of a peccary (which is also known as a skunk pig. I can’t stop laughing at that name– at least they’re kind of cute!) on Barbados. Wanting to know how old the specimen was, they used radio carbon dating to help pin point a year. Lo and behold the bone dated from between 1645-1670. So those WERE pigs from Mr. Ligon’s map. Now it seemed to be confirmed what was just speculation before, that European sailors must have brought pigs to island at some point before the mid-1600s, most likely as meat for future sailors passing by.

Must have been no Arawak stories or indications to say how those creatures got there in the first place, since they were, you know, there all along

Stories like that always spark my imagination for some reason. Who were those sailors who left the pigs? Spanish? Dutch? Portuguese? What prompted them to part with some of their meat supply? What were they like? I feel a deep sonder (I love that there’s a word for an emotion that is so hard to express) when I think about that. What were the lives of those sailors like? I can only imagine. Now that story would make a great book.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Skunk Pig!

PS – While it’s not Barbados, apparently there are pigs in the Bahamas that you can actually swim with! I think I might need to try that!

*Something has always rubbed me the wrong way about the “Old World/New World” terms. Seriously, it’s really just one world, and just because we weren’t aware of other continents and people, doesn’t mean they weren’t there just as long. But anyway, I digress…

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