A Description of New Netherland

By Adriaen Van der Donck; Charles T. Gehring et al. | Go to book overview

OF THE NATURE, AMAZING WAYS,
AND PROPERTIES OF THE BEAVERS 82

Under the heading of wildlife in the description of the animals of New Netherland, we left it until later to relate in detail the nature and unusual habits of the beavers. Since we have said as much as we deem necessary of the country and its natives, now is the time to keep our promise. As the beaver is the main reason and the source of the means for the initial settlement of this fine country by Europeans, it will be appropriate to go some way back regarding its nature and attributes and first to record the views that ancient and later authors expressed about the animal. It will then appear from the subsequent account of the plain and simple truth how far all of them strayed from the facts.

The great naturalist Pliny, in the third chapter of his thirtysecond book, states that the beaver's members, by which he means the testes, have many medicinal uses, and that the beavers, knowing that trappers pursue them for that reason, bite off those parts with their teeth, and as a last resort, rise up and show them to the trappers so that they may be rid of the prize they are hunted for.1 All the ancient naturalists and physicians were of that opinion. Later this was denied by some who, nevertheless, believed that beavers were caught merely for their genitals, which they called castoreum, or beaver testes. They also write that beavers have sharp teeth with which

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