The Various Effects of Sheep on the Economy and Populations

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The Columbian Exchange – a term coined by Alfred Crosby – refers to the exchange of plants, animals and diseases between the Old World and the New, succeeding Columbus' arrival in the Caribbean in 1492. The Columbian Exchange had a great significance in American, as well as World History. It is the reason why Native American populations dramatically declined, as well as why a few European countries became some of the wealthiest countries in the world at the time. While it is responsible for the movement of plants, animals and diseases, it is also responsible for the technological advancements which have shaped our world into the world it is today. One specific part of the Columbian exchange that had an impact on the world was the exchange of Sheep. While the sheep might have been a new appearance in the Americas, their origins were in Central Asia, where they were domesticated 10,000 years ago. However, humans didn't figure out how to spin wool until 3,500 B.C. Sheep provided two necessities for human life – food and warmth, making them very significance. Sheep and their wool spread to Europe through ancient Greece between 3000 B.C. and 1000 B.C. The exchange of sheep during the Columbian Exchange between 1450 and 1750 C.E. evolved and progressed the economy of both the New and Old world, and affected the world politically and socially – specifically hurting Native American and native animal populations. However, despite these changes pushed by the exchange of sheep, industries derived from sheep products such as the wool industry still remain as big industries today, and those affected negatively by sheep still continued usage of them and their products.
Sheep first came ashore the New World with Columbus on his second voyage at 1493. Queen Isabella of Spain funded his voyage using the money from the wool industry. Fernando Cortez, a Spanish conquistador, also aided in the movement of sheep. In 1519, he commenced his exploration of Mexico and the Western side of the United States, bringing sheep along with him. However, the sheep were a lot slower to adapt than most of the other European livestock. They did not do so well in the Caribbean islands, or in hot, wet lowland climates. Bernabé Cobo, a Spanish Jesuit missionary and writer, noticed that “lands not good for men were also unsuited for sheep. Nor did the sheep oblige the Europeans by running off into the wilderness to breed themselves into great herds and await the opportunity to make wealthy men of the first Spaniards to claim them. Sheep were much less capable of defending themselves against predators than swine, horses, or longhorns” (Crosby, 92). However, despite these setbacks, the number of sheep in the Americas eventually became massive. In fact, in 1582, there was a recorded amount of 200,000 sheep. Furthermore, their inability to survive well in different environments did not change the fact that they were the principle element in many civilizations. Mutton, or sheep meat, was...

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