Book of Mormon/Anachronisms/Animals

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    Animals alleged to be anachronistic in the Book of Mormon

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The Book of Mormon mentions animals which are not known to have existed in the pre-Columbian New World.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


We can draw the following tentative conclusions:

  • Ass - the horse-like tapir is a possibility
  • Bees - not required in the Americas by the text, but pre-Columbian examples also exist
  • Cow - bovine species (e.g. buffalo) were present in the Americas, and there is also ample precedent for naming different animals with common names, and there are other New World candidates, such as deer and tapirs.
  • Elephant - only necessary in the Jaredite era, there is both traditional, inscriptional, and biologic remains as evidence for the Book of Mormon's claims
  • Horse - there is some evidence, not yet deemed definitive, which suggests that the true horse may have been known in at least some parts of Mesoamerica in pre-Columbian times before Christ. There is also ample precedent for naming different animals with common names, and there are other New World candidates, such as deer and tapirs.
  • Sheep - a single example of sheep's wool from a pre-Columbian burial site suggests that a literal sheep may be a possibility
  • Silkworms - present in the New World with other options also available for silk cloth; see silk
  • Swine - native swine species existed, though only Jaredite use is noted (unsurprisingly, since Nephites were under the law of Moses).


Animals alleged to be anachronistic in the Book of Mormon

  • Was the story of the Jaredites added to the Book of Mormon in order to explain New World animals?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed by some that the story of the Jaredites, as described in the Book of Ether, was added by Joseph Smith as an "afterthought" in order to account for the variety of animals present in the New World at the time of arrival of Lehi's group. Critics suggest that the Book of Ether was simply an "afterthought" added by Joseph Smith to the Book of Mormon in order to explain the presence of a wide variety of animals in the New World at the time of the arrival of Lehi's party. (Click here for full article)
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  • Horses
    Brief Summary: According to the most scientists, the mention of "horses" in the Americas during Book of Mormon times presents an anachronism--something that doesn't fit the time frame for which it is claimed. Is this a death-knell for the Book of Mormon? (Click here for full article)
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  • The ass (donkey) (Click here for full article)
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  • Bees
    Brief Summary: Among the supposed Book of Mormon anachronisms is the mention of “bees” (Ether 2:3)...It should be noted firstly that the Book of Mormon's use of the term "bees" occurs in an Old World (Jaredite) setting, it is never used in connection with the New World. (Click here for full article)
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  • Cattle
    Brief Summary: Bones of domesticated cattle (Bos taurus) have been reported from different caves in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. In one instance these bones were found with those of an extinct horse, Equus conversidens. (Click here for full article)
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  • Elephants
    Brief Summary: Elephants are only present in Jaredite times in the Book of Mormon. Both mammoths and gomphotheres are elephant-like creatures that are plausible candidates which may have lived up until Jaredite times. (Click here for full article)
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  • Sheep (Click here for full article)
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  • Goats (Click here for full article)
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  • Silkworms (Click here for full article)
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  • Swine (pigs)
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that swine were unknown in the ancient New World. In addition, some have ridiculed the Book of Mormon’s suggestion that swine would be used for food (due to dietary constraints of the Mosaic law). (Click here for full article)
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  • Cureloms and cumoms (Click here for full article)
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  • Serpents and drought
    Brief Summary: In the Book of Mormon, the Book of Ether contains an account of a drought accompanied by a sudden increase in 'poisonous serpents'. Some claim that this is biologically implausible. (Click here for full article)
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Detailed Analysis

In the first place, one should not reject the possibility of "loan-shifting," in which a name for a familiar species is applied for a new species. This is a well-known phenomenon — for example, Amerindians called European horses 'deer' when they first encountered them. The classic example is, of course, the hippopotamus, which name the Greeks gave to an animal they called a "river (potamus) horse (hippo)." Critics who scoff should ask themselves how anyone could mistake a hippopotamus for a horse — the answer, of course, is that the Greeks knew perfectly well that the hippo was not a true horse, but the name stuck. [1]


Part(s) of this issue are addressed in a FairMormon video segment. Click here to see video clips on other topics.
NB: Please note that reference is made to a potential pre-Columbian horse, the so-called "Spencer Lake," horse skull. This has now been determined to have been a fraud or hoax, and should not be considered evidence for the Book of Mormon account.


  1. For a discussion, see John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 298.

Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims

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