Before the colonization of North America, the animal landscape looked a lot different than it does today. Humans are pretty good at taking stuff and just sort of shaking it all over the earth, no matter the consequences- and thus, we have a much more colorful set of animals roaming the Americas than perhaps we ever should have. But hey, you can’t be too angry at earlier humans for bringing their sometimes-not-so-great pets with them. When chickens are one of the animals on the list, we should be at least a little grateful. Here are 10 of the more surprising animals that don’t bleed red, white, and blue.
Nope. No wandering feral chickens could be found in North America before their introduction (if wandering feral chickens even exist). Chickens are originally from Asia, and are a domesticated fowl that is a subspecies of the red junglefowl. Chickens have been utilized for their egg-producing properties and tasty meat since Egypt’s use of them in the mid-15th century BC.
- Feral Horses
Horses used to roam the wilderness of North America, but that was before their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene era. The arrival of the Conquistadors in the 15th century saw the reintroduction of horses to the Americas, as many of these horses escaped and ended up forming herds of feral horses. So, all those wild west movies depicting herds of mustangs? You can thank Europeans for that.
- House Mice
Cuddly but invasive, house mice are originally from Europe. The house mouse is often domesticated and then called either the “fancy mouse” or the “laboratory mouse,” and is used as a pet or a science experiment. They are extremely numerous and indeed not always welcome in the houses that they are named after.
Europe to the rescue again! The Western or European honeybee is by far the most common of the honeybee species worldwide. These buzzing neighbors are very important to American agricultural practices and are responsible for pollinating almost 75% of plant species that are directly used for human food, making them a rather positive invader to our homeland.
- House Sparrows
Not ours either, if you can believe it. These sweet little birds which line our telephone poles in such an abundance are actually from- you guessed it- Europe. The house sparrow is native to much of Asia and the Mediterranean regions, as well. Because of its accidental and not-so-accidental introductions around the globe, today it is the most widely distributed wild bird. So, you’ll see at least one familiar little face wherever you go.
If you’re a seashell fanatic, you’ll probably be amused to learn that those periwinkles you love finding so much are not actually native to America. The common periwinkle is, like most of the animals on this list, a European at heart. It calls the rocky shores of the northeastern Atlantic Ocean home and, in fact, is a species of small edible sea snail.
- Common Rabbits
The European rabbit is a species of rabbit native primarily to Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Algeria. Much like the house sparrow, these rabbits have been introduced widely elsewhere- however, with more negative impacts. Because of their prolific nature and their voracious appetites, some places have even named the European rabbit an invasive species.
- Red Deer
One of the largest deer species and perhaps one of the most recognizable, red deer are not from America at all. Rather, the red deer is native to Europe, Asia, and even some parts of Africa (making it the only species of deer to call Africa home). Red deer were introduced all over the globe over the years, and now can also be found in Australia, Canada, Peru, New Zealand, and the US, among other places.
Cows and chickens? Yep. Two of our most important farming resources weren’t here for us when we got here. Cattle were introduced to America by the same gold-seeking Spanish conquistadors that unleashed mustangs into the American plains. Cattle are useful not only for the meat that they provide but also for their wholesome milk.
- Brown Trout
If you’ve ever fished for brown trout in the lake next to your house, you may want to give Europe a brief nod of thanks. Brown trout are not actually native to North America, and instead have a range that extends from Northern Norway to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because brown trout have self-sustaining wild populations after introduction to new areas, they are now widely prolific around the globe.
America, the Lackluster
Just kidding. In all seriousness, however, an enormous variety of animal species that cover our continent never really were supposed to be there to begin with. Whether it was a Spanish conquistador or a hungry settler, we have many different people groups from many different continents to thank for our now diverse and wide-ranging wildlife.