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Why Did the Argentinian Government Import 50 Beavers?

The fur trade is a global industry that deals with the purchase and sale of animal fur. Furs from boreal, polar, and cold temperate mammalian animals have been the most valuable since creating a global fur market in the early modern period. The commerce fostered the exploration and colonization of Siberia, northern North America, and the South Shetland and the South Sandwich Islands in the past. But did you know why the Argentinian Government imported 50 Beavers?

In an attempt to develop the fur trade, the Argentinian government imported 50 beavers in 1946. Because of this, beavers are now at a population of 200,000 and threaten over 39 million acres of woodland.

The Beaver Fur Trade

Furs have played a significant role in clothing people since the beginning of human history, valued for their warmth, sumptuous texture, and longevity as a material. Furs have been used to make outerwear such as coats and capes, garment and shoe linings, a variety of head coverings, and ornamental trim and trappings for everyday use or costume and adornment.

The Felt and fur trade between Europe and Asia dates back centuries, if not millennia. Throughout the 15th century, Russian, Northern Scandinavian, and Central Asian animal supplies were the primary sources of this commerce. Through Constantinople, furs were supplied to the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Through Constantinople, furs were supplied to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. This commerce may be traced back to Classical Greece and Rome and the present era. Scandinavian and Viking Rus traders exported furs to Northern and Central Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries, including marten, reindeer, bear, otter, sable, ermine, black and white fox, and beaver.

The European Beaver once had a large population in northern Europe and Siberia, but it was severely decimated in the 17th century due to overhunting.  (Source: University of California Santa Cruz)

The Role of the Beaver in the Fur Trade in Europe

A complicated network of trans-Atlantic trading networks emerges when following the course of the American beaver pelt. Beaver trapping contributed to shifting economic and political relationships between Europeans and Native Americans in the wilds of North America. The trade’s effects had far-reaching social, demographic, and environmental consequences for the people of seventeenth and eighteenth-century North America.

The exchange of furs was inextricably linked to the colonies’ economic prosperity and viability. Furthermore, the transportation of furs across the Atlantic and into other markets such as Russia and Amsterdam enriched the Atlantic World’s marine industry. After arriving in Europe, the beaver dispersed in many ways. Some pelts were permanently shipped across the continent, while others were eaten on the domestic market or sent to Russia for further processing before being turned into completed goods.

Some furs were kept for local consumption, while others were readied for export once they entered the hatting industry of France or Britain. Hats were exported across the continent and back across the Atlantic to the Americas through each home country’s colonial networks and from elsewhere. It’s not impossible to track a beaver pelt’s journey from British Canada to England, through Russia via Amsterdam, back to Britain, onto Spain, and on to the Spanish possessions in South and Central America as a hat.

The supply and demand of one fortuitously fuzzy mammal connected the North American and European markets. (Source: University of California Santa Cruz)

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