Animals From the New World to the Old World

The exchange of animals such as guinea pigs, species of fowl such as Turkey, and beavers from the New World to the Old World was mainly a commercial investment as a result of the use of the products of these animals, and the goods their furs were used to make. These products and goods were partially responsible for the economic rise of Europe through trading.


The New World did not have nearly the amount of domesticated animals as the Old World. This was partly due
to the lack of large mammals that could be tamed and perform strenuous labor after doing so. Merchants instead sought to use the fur of these animals in trade to produce luxury items such as hats and fur coats. The rise in popularity of such items almost led to the extinction of animals such as the beaver, whose fur was used to make gentlemen's felt hats. Beaver fur was desirable because the nature of the material made hats of this kind less likely to unravel, as a wool hat would do, and more impervious to water. This reliance on North American beavers stemmed from the fact that felting had gone out of practice in Western Europe during the first millennium (making processing of the fur pelts in countries that had upheld the practice such as Russia necessary), and their European supply of the species was quickly dwindling.

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Native animals in the New World that were exported to the Old World did not have as much of an effect on the ecosystem and inhabitants as the Old World did to the New. Most of the animals were small, and the larger ones, such as alpacas, did not create conflicts or cause widespread diseases like the imported animals from the Old World did. Many of the animals were small, furry mammals, such as the beaver, muskrat, and grey squirrel. The guinea pig proved useful in laboratory experimentation, but did not replace the already high demand of small animal meat such as rabbit in the Old World. Birds were also exported to the Old World, the main two being fowls and turkeys. Due to the majority of the transported animals being relatively harmless, the Europeans were able to use some of these animals to create luxury goods for economic gain.
Evidence of the effect these exchanged animals had on the Old World can be found in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. In it, a character is referred to as a “Turkey -cock” with “advanced plumes.” Turkeys as they are known today were originally brought from Mexico in the 1520's, and were so named because of the English belief that they had originated from Turkey. Another name for them was "The Bird of India" because of their origin in what was initially thought by Columbus to be India. They were not called Turkeys until the 1550's and Twelfth Night was written between 1601-1602, long enough for English society to become familiar enough with this term to be used in one of his plays.

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  • “Beaver.” 27 Sept. 2012.
This source gave us an image of beavers for adding detail to our wiki.
This source provided information about the types of animals exchanged during the Columbian exchange.
  • Crosby, Alfred W. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport: Greenwood Group, 2003. Print.
    This source served as our print resource. It provided information about the role of animals in the Columbian exchange.

  • Grennes, Thomas. "The Columbian Exchange And The Reversal Of Fortune." CATO Journal 27.1 (2007): 91-107. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.

This source provided information on the lack of native large mammals in the New World, and the largest mammals were alpacas and dogs.

  • “How To Add an Arrow to Images Using Paint.” 25 April 2011. 27 Sept. 2012.


This source gave a very simple image of an arrow pointing right.

This source helped illustrate the Old World and the new World.

This source provided information about how the trading of animal skins found in the New World affected Old World economy.

  • “The Other Names of Hat Creek.” Dottie Smith, 19 April 2009. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.

This source included a picture that gave a visual representation of what a beaver hat would look like during the time it would have been in style

This source included information about the origin of the turkey, and what effect this species had on the Old World.

  • Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. N.p.: Camridge UP, 2005. Print. Cambridge School Shakespeare Ser.
This source served as our primary source.

This source included information about the minimal effect that the New World’s native animals had when they were exported to the Old World and adapted.