First cowboys in Americas were likely enslaved Africans in 1600s
The first cowboys in the Americas were likely enslaved Africans, and their own cattle herds may have been brought over with them.
So suggests an analysis of 400-year-old cattle DNA from Mexico and the island of Hispaniola published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.
Conventional wisdom holds that American cattle descend from Spanish livestock brought to the Caribbean by Columbus and others, which later mixed with African breeds imported in the 1700s.
But the new DNA analysis supports the conclusion that African breeds arrived in the New World in the 1600s.
The authors say that fact, combined with a history of slave traders targeting Africans versed in cattle herding, suggests the slave and cattle trades were linked.
Such skills would have been invaluable to colonial powers because indigenous peoples had no experience with large, domesticated animals.
The researchers hypothesize that colonizers might have viewed African cattle as more adaptable to tropical conditions in the Caribbean and Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.