Forget about the Gun – I’ll Take the Cow
Annabelle – Wyoming, USA
The Pleistocene Overkill (see May 11th entry “Pleistocene Overkill”) along with some other variables insured that the Americas and Australia (the “New World”) were void of large mammals and thus the percentage of developing any indigenous domesticated animals dropped significantly. This situation would have a resounding impact on the development of the modern world.
Due to the fact that the New World had no large animals to domesticate (horse, cow, pig, etc were all brought over with Europeans), they had very little contact with live animals. This meant they were quite healthy as a population compared to their Old World cohort. Most deadly diseases originate in animal populations or from the teeming group of creatures that use the animals as a host. Humans in close contact with a disease carrying animal are at risk of contracting the disease if the germ has the ability to make the leap onto or into farmer Jones and has what it takes to adapt to the environment of its new host. Diseases are in the survival and procreation business same as any living being and they are quite efficient at both of these ventures. Because diseases reproduce so rapidly and in such huge quantities their evolutionary potential (or for those of you who don’t like that word – ability to adapt to their environment – like brown bunnies who turn white after a few generations in the tundra) is astounding. Once they are at home in their new host, they then go about the business of settling new environs, meaning infecting more humans, with a rather self absorbed intent – a biological Lebensraum if you will.
The people groups inhabiting Europe and some other parts of the Old World lived in very close proximity with live animals due to their dependence on domesticated animals. Indeed, to many poor families living a subsistence lifestyle off of the land, their animals were indispensable towards survival. So if a blizzard came you bet Bessy moved inside with farmer Jones and family. Many houses today in certain parts of rural Europe are still connected to their barns – most likely a carry over from times when the aforementioned situation was more common. Due to this living situation, many Europeans were incredibly diseased. There are only two real options a body has when it gets ill, it dies or it gets better, a process which might take a brief moment or many years. Those who survived the myriad diseases contracted from their animals or from other animal dependent friends developed some serious immune systems. The Europeans constantly carried various diseases, as many lay dormant waiting for a drop in the immune system, or were simply giving settlement another go. The Old World persons were virtually walking Petri dishes. Throw this human Petri dish into the “healthy”, immune deficient New World society and you have one of the greatest pathologic disasters in the history of the world. This led to the European conquest of the Americas and is why most Mexicans speak Spanish not Yukatec and New Yorkers speak English not Iroquoian.