I was eating dinner with my parents in Florida and we had been on a tour and seen some dolphins but no manatees, which we were discussing and then things went off the rails.
Me: Well, maybe it’s not the right season for them. Also, they’re harder to see than dolphins. It’s not like they jump out of the water. They just nom on seaweed reaaaalllllly slowly.
Dad: Yeah. Aren’t they called the cows of the sea? Cows aren’t that excitable either.
Sister: How did cows survive so long anyway? Like obviously we protected the domesticated ones, but before that. Were there ever wild cows?
Mom: I don’t know. There are wild horses, or, wait, are horses native to North America?
Me: I don’t think so. I can’t remember, but I’m sure I should know, that I’ve heard the story of how they got here before.
Mom: Yeah, me too. They were brought over to South America I think. By that bad guy. Oh what’s his name. The bad guy.
Mom: No. You know. That bad guy.
Me: Lex Luthor?
[They ignore me like they’re used to me.]
Dad: In Peru?
Mom: Yeah, that’s him.
Dad: That Japanese guy?
Mom: No! Spanish.
Me: Japanese guy? In Peru?
Me: With horses?
Dad: Apparently not. But yeah, he was Prime Minister for a while and he wasn’t even a citizen.
Me: So, wait, what did we decide about wild cows?
Is this what happens when you have dinner with people who don’t keep phones in their pockets? I vaguely remember what it feels like, but it’s so strange. You just speculate wildly and then that crazy guess moves you on to a new topic about which you also know nothing and end up speculating wildly. And before you know it, you’ve gone from manatees to Peruvian presidents.
For the curious, here are a few answers:
Manatees seem to be in Florida pretty much all the time, but especially in winter when they should be further South, so I’m not sure why we’ve seen fewer than I did when I was here last July.
Cows have a wild ancestor, the auroch, which was native to Europe, Northern Africa and parts of Asia, but the last one died out in 1627. They could fend off wolf predators once they were older, but also had to contend with large cats and hyenas. They were apparently quite fast and could be aggressive.
The whole horse thing is just confusing. Apparently horses were in North America (as well as Europe and Asia) 3.5 million years ago, but died off around the same time as the other North American megafauna did. Then the Spanish re-introduced them in the 1500s.
My Dad was talking about Fujimori, although I’m not sure why because that was in 1990, soooo…
So that settles that.