Horses were first brought to the New World by Columbus. He brought horses on his three voyages to the Americas as well as writing to the King and Queen of Spain to have more horses sent.

Columbus' men making landfall on horseback and encountering Natives. [ Sourced From: ]

Columbus’ men making landfall on horseback and encountering Natives.

The Spaniards sought to establish a self-sufficient population of horses in the Caribbean.

  • The first island in the New World to be home to horses was Espanola. After his first trip west Columbus was quick to write back to Spain asking for more horses to be sent along with the soldiers and colonists who were coming on the second set of ships to the New World. The Spanish throne sent Columbus the best horses Europe had to offer. In fact, horses were such an important asset that when Columbus wrote again to the Spanish throne requesting more horses the King replied that there simply was not enough room, but he did suggest leaving other supplies off the ships to make more room for more horses, and the first shipment to the Western Hemisphere arrived in Espanola on November 28, 1493, according to Bartolome de Las Casas. The first few horses Columbus brought with him, as well as the ones sent by the Spanish throne in the coming years, eventually produced enough to populate all of Spanish America as well as parts of the United States.
  • Breeding was the main goal of new horse and mare shipments sent from Spain. Evidence of specific breeding farms show up as early as 1499. The Spaniards were able to breed their horses while simultaneously expanding their empire.
  • Horses proved to be a major asset for the Spanish in their fight to control the native people they encountered. The natives had never seen a horse before and were in awe. Native people had no chance when confronting a mounted Spaniard in battle, and became fearful of horses, something the Spanish used to their growing advantage. Horses gave both speed and power that Indians on foot simply could not match. Spaniards would add bells and armor to their horses to further scare the Natives during battles.
  • Like all other trade in the region at the time Spain also sought to control the horse trade for financial gain. Horses were used in farming and raised as a chief source of income for the Spanish settlers in Puerto Rico and Jamaica. Hernando Cortes even raised mares in Cuba.  The Spanish throne set strict laws governing taxes and penalties regarding horses and set up royal farms where livestock was raised and given to new Spanish settlers encouraging them to come live in the New World. Horses were soon a normal part of everyday life for new Spanish colonists throughout the Caribbean islands. Horses were also used in the fields on plantations. Horses became so abundant in the New World that, despite being hit with hurricanes, Puerto Rico was still able to supply the Spaniards with plenty of horses when they sought to take over the Incan Empire.


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