French Encyclopedists Disparage Wildlife in the New World

We formerly remarked, as a singular phaenomenon, that the animals in the southern provinces of the New Continent, are small in proportion to those in the warm regions of the Old. There is no comparison between the size of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the camelopard, the camel, the lion, the tiger, &c. and the tapir, the cabiai, the ant-eater, the lama, the puma, the jaguar, &c. which are the largest quadrupeds of the New World: The former are four, six, eight, and ten times larger than the [128] latter. Another observation brings additional strength to this general fact: All the animals which have been transported from Europe to America, as the horse, the as, the ox, the sheep, the goat, the hog, the dog, &c. have become smaller; and those which were not transported, but went thither spontaneously, those, in a word, which are common to both Continents, as the wolf, the fox, the stag, the roebuck, the elk, &c. are also considerably less than those of Europe.

In this New World, therefore, there is some combination of elements and other physical causes, something that opposes the amplification of animated Nature: There are obstacles to the development, and perhaps to the formation of large germs. Even those which, from the kindly influences of another climate, have acquired their complete form and expansion, shrink and diminish under a niggardly sky and an unprolific land, thinly peopled with wandering savages, who, instead of using this territory as a master, had no property or empire; and, having subjected neither the animals nor the elements, nor conquered the seas, nor directed the motions of rivers, nor cultivated the earth, held only the first rank among animated beings, and existed as a creature of no consideration in Nature, a kind of weak automaton, incapable of improving or seconding her intentions. She treated them rather like a stepmother than a parent, by refusing [129] them the invigorating sentiment of love, and the strong desire of multiplying their species. For, though the American savage be nearly of the same stature with men in polished societies; yet this is not a sufficient exception to the general contraction of animated Nature throughout the whole Continent. In the savage, the organs of generation are small and feeble. He has no hair, no bear, no ardour for the female. Though nimbler than the European, because more accustomed to running, his strength is not so great. His sensations are less acute; and yet he is more timid and cowardly. He has no vivacity, no activity of mind. The activity of his body is not so much an exercise or spontaneous motion, as a necessary action produced by want. Destroy his appetite for victuals and drink, and you will at once annihilate the active principle of all his movements: He remains in stupid repose, on his limbs or couch, for whole days. It is easy to discover the cause of the scattered life of savages, and of their estrangement from society. They have been refused the most precious spark of Nature’s fire: They have no ardour for women, and, of course, no love to mankind. Unacquainted with the most lively and most tender of all attachments, their other sensations of this nature are cold and languid. Their love to parents and children is extremely weak. The bonds of the most intimate of all societies, that of the same family, are feeble; and one family [130] has no attachment to another. Hence no union, no republic, no social state, can take place among them. The physical cause of love gives rise to the morality of their manners. Their heart is frozen, their society cold, and their empire cruel. They regard their females as servants destined to labour, or as beasts of burden, whom they load unmercifully with the produce of their hunting, and oblige, without pity or gratitude, to perform labours which often exceed their strength. They have few children, and pay little attention to them. Every thing must be referred to the first cause: They are indifferent, because they are weak; and this indifference to the sex is the original stain which disgraces Nature, prevents her from expanding, and, by destroying the germs of life, cuts the root of society.

Hence man makes no exception to what has been advanced. Nature, by denying him the faculty of love, has abused and contracted him more than any other animal. But, before examining the causes of this general effect, it must be allowed, that, if Nature has diminished all the quadrupeds in the New World, she seems to have cherished reptile and enlarged the insect tribes; for, though at Senegal there are longer serpents and larger lizards than in South America, yet the difference between these animals is not near so great as that which subsists between the quadrupeds. The largest serpent of Senegal is not double the size of the Cayenne [131] serpent. But the elephant is perhaps ten times the bulk of the tapir, which is the largest quadruped of South America. With regard, however, to insects, they are no where so large as in South America. The largest spiders, beetles, caterpillars, and butterflies, are found in Cayenne and other neighbouring provinces: Here almost all insects exceed those of the Old World, not in size only, but in richness of colouring, delicacy of shades, variety of forms, number of species, and the prodigious multiplication of individuals. The toads, the frogs, and other animals of this kind, are likewise very large in America. We shall take no notice of birds and fishes; because, as Nature has enabled them to pass from the one Continent to the other, it is hardly possible to distinguish those which are proper to each. But reptiles and insects, like the quadrupeds, are confined to their respective Continents.


Buffon states that mammals of North America are smaller and its Native Americans less developed than European life, owing to the continent's lack of resources and cold climate. Reptiles and insects thrive, however.

Folksonomies: naturalism classic encycolpedia error slant

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America:Continent (0.736868 (neutral:0.000000)), South America:Continent (0.704927 (neutral:0.000000)), Cayenne:Company (0.671207 (neutral:0.000000)), Europe:Continent (0.650366 (neutral:0.000000)), Senegal:Country (0.649361 (neutral:0.000000)), North America:Region (0.609926 (neutral:0.000000))

South America (0.988717): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Europe (0.966842): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Continent (0.891875): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Old World (0.795907): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Americas (0.730815): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
New World (0.694942): dbpedia | freebase | yago
North America (0.658064): geo | dbpedia | freebase | yago
Africa (0.646461): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 Histoire Naturelle
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Buffon , Georges­Louis De (1984-10-01), Histoire Naturelle, French & European Pubns, Retrieved on 2011-06-15
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: naturalism classic


    15 JUN 2011

     Buffon VS Jefferson on European VS American Wildlife

    French Encyclopedists Disparage Wildlife in the New World > Contrast > Comparing European and American Mammals and Livestock
    Buffon argues that North American life is diminished in comparison to Europe's life. Jefferson refutes him with cold data (however apparently embellished).