F act: Horses aren’t native to the Americas, they were brought to the Americas from Spain.
Everyone knows that… or at least they think they know that… While it is factual that domesticated horses were brought from Spain in the 1500s, and it’s also factual that there were no horses in the Americas at that point in time, it is not true that horses aren’t native to the Americas.
I’d submit that horses are more native to the Americas than humans. One of the biggest mistakes that I believe we make is in how we define the term ‘native.’ The dominant paradigm of conservation is that animals that existed in the Americas when Columbus arrived in 1492 are native, and those that did not, are non-native.
This is what Paul S. Martin, geoscientist at the University of Arizona and author of Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America refers to as the “Columbian Curtain:” I refer to this as a short-sighted ecological window that prevents us from exploring what really constitutes a “native” species based on Columbus’ arrival to the New World… and this short-sightedness is proving troublesome in allowing conservationists to explore solid eco-restorative options.
All things relative, if 13,000 years ago (when the first Americans arrived on the continent from Eurasia) in geological and ecological time is a blink of an eye, then a 522 year period isn’t even a blip on the radar. Furthermore, using the arrival of the Columbus to provide the baseline for ‘natural,’ ‘native,’ or ‘indigenous’ is downright arbitrary and dare I say stupid.