Former writers have related that this island abounded with vast numbers of goats; and their accounts are not to be questioned, this place being the usual haunt of the buccaneers* and privateers who formerly frequented those seas. And there are two instances—one of a Mosquito Indian, and the other of Alexander Selkirk, a Scotchman, who were left by their respective ships, and lived alone upon this island for some years, and consequently were no strangers to its produce. Selkirk, who was the last, after a stay of between four and five years, was taken off the place by the Duke and Duchess privateers, of Bristol, as may be seen at large in the journal of their voyage. His manner of life during his solitude was in most particulars very remarkable; but there is one circumstance he relates which was so strangely verified by our own observation that I cannot help reciting it. He tells us, among other things, as he often caught more goats than he wanted, he sometimes marked their ears and let them go. This was about thirty-two years before our arrival at the island. Now it happened that the first goat that was killed by our people at their landing had his ears slit; whence we concluded that he had doubtless been formerly under the power of Selkirk. This was indeed an animal of a most venerable aspect, dignified with an exceeding majestic beard, and with many other symptoms of antiquity. During our stay on the island we met with others marked in the same manner, all the males being distinguished by an exuberance of beard and every other characteristic of extreme age. But the great numbers of goats, which former writers described to have been found upon this island, are at present very much diminished. For the Spaniards being informed of the advantages which the buccaneers and privateers drew from the provisions which goats’ flesh here furnished them with, they have endeavoured to extirpate the breed, thereby to deprive their enemies of this relief. For this purpose they have put on shore great numbers of large dogs, who have increased apace, and have destroyed all the goats in the accessible part of the country; so that there now remain only a few among the crags and precipices where the dogs cannot follow them.
(Note. ‘The buccaneers.’ The name “buccaneer” originally meant one who dried or smoked flesh on a “boucan,” a kind of hurdle used for this purpose by the natives of Central and South America. The English, French, and Dutch smugglers who, in spite of the monopoly so jealously guarded by the Spaniards (see Introduction above) traded in the Caribbean seas, used to provision at St. Domingo largely with beef, jerked or sun-dried on the boucans. These men formed an organised body, under a chief chosen by themselves, and, under the name of the buccaneers, were for three-quarters of a century the terror of the Spaniards. In 1655 they were powerful enough to give material assistance to the English fleet which conquered Jamaica.