In “The Fortuitous Meeting”, Gerard has a run-in with animals referred to as “boars”. Today, this animal would be classified as a peccary, but in Colonial Brazil, peccaries were referred to as wild pigs or boars, because of their resemblance to those European animals.
The sixteenth-century chroniclers who first described Brazil had plenty to say about peccaries. Pero de Magalhães de Gândavo wrote about the large number of pigs, including “boars like in our land (referring to Portugal), and other smaller ones which have a navel on their backs”. This “belly button” is actually a dorsal gland which releases a powerful musk scent. Fernão Cardim noted that the smell is so strong, dogs could easily find their trails. He also mentioned that wild pigs were so common they were a staple food for the natives.
Fernão Cardim mentioned that some of the peccaries were so ferocious as to attack both dogs and hunters, and men had to climb trees to escape them–a technique Gerard himself was forced to use.
The fresh-water pigs mentioned by the chroniclers were actually capybara, which are now classified as the world’s largest rodent.
Today we know the boars and wild pigs of the chroniclers as two species of peccary, both still common throughout Brazil: the Collared Peccary and the White-Lipped Peccary.
(Image: Brian Gratwicke, Wikimedia Commons)
(Image: Ana Cotta, Wikimedia Commons)