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TitleChapter XIV
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1883
AuthorsCannon, George Q.
Book TitleThe Life of Nephi, the Son of Lehi
PublisherJuvenile Instructor Office
CitySalt Lake City
KeywordsAncient America; Book of Mormon Geography; Ecology; Horses; Nephi (Son of Lehi); South America

Land and Pitch their Tents—Place of Landing—Cultivate the Ground—Good Crops—Find Animals of Every Kind—Also Ores—Raise Large Flocks and Herds—"Carneros de la Tierra"—Find the Horse—Was the Horse Extinct When the Whites Discovered America?—Reasons for Thinking it was not—Wild Horses Seen by Sir Francis Drake in 1579—Opinion of Professor Marsh—Horses Seen by Drake, not Spanish

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Land and Pitch their Tents—Place of Landing—Cultivate the Ground—Good Crops—Find Animals of Every Kind—Also Ores—Raise Large Flocks and Herds—"Carneros de la Tierra"—Find the Horse—Was the Horse Extinct When the Whites Discovered America?—Reasons for Thinking it was not—Wild Horses Seen by Sir Francis Drake in 1579—Opinion of Professor Marsh—Horses Seen by Drake, not Spanish.

They landed and pitched their tents, and they acknowledged that the Lord had indeed fulfilled His promises unto them. He had guided them through the wilderness, had enabled them to construct a vessel, in which He had brought them safely across the mighty breadth of ocean which extended from the coast of Arabia to the coast of what is now called South America, or as they, with good reason, called it, "The Promised Land." The Prophet Joseph, in speaking of their place of landing, said [A] it was on the coast of the country now known as Chili—a country which possesses a genial, temperate and healthy climate. They immediately turned their attention to agriculture. They prepared the ground and put in all the seeds which they had brought with them from the land of Jerusalem. They found the soil admirably adapted for agriculture. Their seeds grew finely and yielded good crops, and they were blessed with abundance. We find no mention made of any seeds being planted by them at any point from the time of their departure from Jerusalem until they reached the promised land. If while encamped in the valley of Lemuel or at Bountiful they cultivated the earth and raised provisions or seeds, we are not informed of it, though doubtless both places were suitable for that purpose.

In exploring the wilderness after their arrival they found animals of every kind—the cow, the ox, the ass and the horse, the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals which were for the use of man; they also found ores of all kinds, particularly gold, silver and copper. The animals they tamed for their use, and Nephi and his people raised large flocks and herds of animals of every kind. Doubtless they raised herds of a species of camel which is native to the northern part of Chili and to Peru. The Spaniards call them carneros de la tierra. These animals in many respects resemble the camel of the old continent; but differ materially in others. They are less in size, but of a more elegant form; they have a small head without horns, but a large tuft of hair adorns the forehead; a very long, slender neck, well proportioned ears, large, round, full, black eyes, a short muzzle, the upper lip more or less cleft; the body is handsomely turned, the legs long and slender, the feet bipartite, or divided in the hoof like the deer and the sheep; the covering of the body is a mixture of hair and wool. The varieties of these animals are the llama, pace, or alpaco, guanaco and vicuna or vicugna. The size of a full-grown llama is five feet five inches from the bottom of the foot to the top of the shoulders. It is by far the handsomest and most majestic animal of the four. The wool is coarse but so abundant on the body that they carry loads on their backs without pack-saddles. Travelers say that nothing can exceed the beauty of a drove of these animals, as they march along with their cargoes on their backs, each being about a hundred pounds weight, following each other in the most orderly manner, equal to a file of soldiers, headed by one with a tastefully embroidered halter on his head, covered with small bells, and a small streamer on his head. Thus they cross the snow-covered tops of the mountains or defile along their sides. Many parts of the routes over which they travel are not suitable for the service of horses or even mules. Like the camel, the llama kneels to receive its load; but if too heavily laden, it will refuse to rise until it is lightened. Its wool can only be used for very ordinary purposes; but that of the alpaco is manufactured into most beautiful blankets, which are as soft as silk. Though the llama and the alpaca were domesticated by the Lamanites before the arrival of the Spaniards in South America, yet they and the guanaco and the vicuna have never mixed: the breeds are distinct and will remain so.

Nephi informs us in his record that, among the other animals which they found in the wilderness upon their arrival at the promised land, was the horse. There have been persons who have declared that because of this statement the record could not be true. They have used this as an argument against the divine origin of the Book of Mormon; for, as they have asserted, the horse was not known upon this continent until it was brought here by the Spaniards. In this way they have tried to prove the record to be false. But recent researches by scientific men have demonstrated beyond the possibility of doubt that America is the original home of the horse, and at certain periods it was occupied with horses of many and various forms. Remains of the true horse as we have it among us at the present time, have been found all over the land. Professor O. C. Marsh, whose patient and intelligent investigations have thrown a flood of light upon this subject, states that the true horse at one time roamed over the whole of North and South America. He believes that it became extinct before the discovery of the continent by Europeans; but, he says, no satisfactory reason for the extinction has yet been given. In fact, he acknowledges that at present it is a mystery why the horse should have been selected for extinction while other mammals no better adapted than it for the surroundings, should have survived. He comments freely upon the strangeness of its disappearance; for he is evidently convinced that when the continent was discovered by Europeans it had disappeared, and that we are indebted for our present horse to the old world, as Europe is called. But we think it is by no means certain that there were no horses on the continent when it was discovered by men from Europe.

Robert Dudley, Earl of Northumberland, published a book (Arcano del Mare) in Florence, Italy, in 1630, (1st edition, pp. 46, 47) to which Rev. Edward E. Hale referred in a paper read by him before the American Antiquarian Society (Proceedings, October, 1873, p. 93) in which he states that Sir Francis Drake [B] found many wild horses on the west coast of North America, at which he wondered, because the Spaniards had never found horses in America. Mr. Hale said:

"The Atlas in the Arcano contains thirty-three maps of America. My notes on the Munich Atlas show that that contains forty-six maps in manuscript. After the engraved map, No. 33, the reference to Drake and the coldness of Oregon is in the following words:

"'As the extract from Dudley referred to by Mr. Hale is in Italian, we give the translation:

"'This map is the last of the sixth book which [map] begins with the port of New Albion [Nuovo Albion]—longitude 237° and latitude 38°—discovered by the Englishman, Drake, about 1579, as [said] above, a place favorable for taking in water and getting other necessaries. The said Drake found that the savages of the country were very courteous and kind, and the land pretty fruitful, and the air temperate. He saw rabbits in great numbers, but with tails as long as [those of] rats, and [saw] many wild horses, with the more wonder because the Spaniards never saw horses in America (e [vidde] di molti cavalli saluatichi, con maggiore maraviglia, atteso chegli pagnuoli non viddero mai cavalli nell' America);) and the reason that Drake sought and found the said port was this,—that having passed the true cape Mendozino,—latitude 42° 30'—to take water, at 43° 30' north latitude he found the coast so cold in the month of June, that his crew could not bear it; at which he quite wondered, the latitude being about the same as that of Tuscany, and of Rome in Italy.'"

In a conversation with Professor Marsh, at Washington, in the winter of 1881, we called his attention to this statement of Dudley's. He had heard of it; but, possessed of the belief that the horse was extinct when Europeans came to this continent, he was not inclined to accept Dudley's statement as true. Yet, aside from the wide-spread and generally accepted belief that there were no horses on the continent at the time of its discovery, there is no evidence which has come to the knowledge of paleontologists or naturalists to prove that the horse was not here at that time. The evidence of its existence up to a comparatively recent period are abundant all over the continent, and wonder is expressed by investigators that it should have disappeared. But did it disappear? Six hundred years before the advent of the Savior, Lehi and his company found the horse in South America. There is no reason to doubt that it was preserved by his descendants up to the time of the extinction of the Nephites, early in the fifth century of our era. It is customary to account for the immense herds of American horses on the assumption that the Spaniards introduced them. But if Drake and his companions saw these horses as described by Dudley, they could not have been descendants of Spanish horses; for no Spaniards had penetrated that country or been within hundreds of miles of it at the time of its discovery by Drake, in 1579. Viceroy Mendoza, who succeeded Cortez, by appointment of the Emperor Charles, in the civil administration of the Spanish possessions, Cortez being restricted to his duties as military commander, sent out Vasquez de Coronado to find the seven cities of Cibola, of the wealth of which the Spaniards had heard very wonderful stories. As early as 1540 he penetrated the country as far as the territory now known as New Mexico and probably into Arizona. He and his troop had horses; but even if they had lost or turned loose any, it is most improbable that in thirty-nine years they would have multiplied into large herds observed by Drake on the sea-board, which as we know was at least five hundred miles away. Coronado had but few horses, would have had fewer brood mares, and would have been apt to mention any loss of a large number of auxiliaries so essential to his expedition. Dudley published his work in Italy, where he was residing, in, 1630. He was a navigator himself, and was the son-in-law of Cavendish, one of the explorers of the South seas. He was well acquainted with the survivors of Drake's voyages. His description of the wild horses they saw has nothing improbable about it; for until quite recently wild horses roamed in herds over all that country. At the time we settled in this Territory wild horses in California were very numerous. And we see no reasons to doubt the correctness of Dudley's statement that Drake saw them in great numbers when he visited the coast in 1579.


A: They traveled nearly a south, southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude; then, nearly east to the sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction, and landed on the continent of South America, in Chili, thirty degrees south latitude.

B: Sir Francis Drake was engaged in his celebrated voyage round the world. His fleet consisted of three vessels—the Pelican, of one hundred tons, the Elizabeth and the Marigold, each of eighty. He entered the Pacific Ocean from the straits of Magellan, on the 6th of September, 1578. On the 30th he lost sight of the Marigold in a gale, and never saw her again. On the 16th of April, 1579, he left the port of Guatulco, on the Mexican coast, and having sailed west and afterwards north, he ran as far north as the parallel of 43°, or, according to other accounts, of 48° north latitude. Bryant, in his Popular History of the United States, (vol. 2, p. 577) says that Humboldt evidently thought that Drake sailed that far north (see Humboldt's "New Spain," ii. 337 et seg.) as this latitude corresponds best of all with the severe cold. Opinions vary as to whether the port which Drake called New Albion was the bay of San Francisco or not; but the evidence is that it was.