1,000,000 BC: Future paleontologists will not be able to pinpoint the exact moment that the great change which allowed the civilizations of the two continents known as the Columbias-sometimes Eurocentrically referred to as the “New World”-to gain their own equivalent of Eurasia’s major livestock. They won’t even look for it, because they won’t see it as unusual or a divergence. When permanent, lasting contact was made between the two worlds, most of the Columbias were populated by sedentary farmers who raised animals for meat, labor, milk and manure. Allohistorically, this would not be considered unusual-merely historical. But it did not have to be that way, as those familiar with our history know. This parallel world came to be around a million years ago, on the land bridge between the two continents known in our world as North and South America, and in this world as North and South Columbia. One organism would change, and with it would bring a cascade of changes that would alter human fate in the western hemisphere. This organism was the animal ancestral to the collared peccaries. Around a million years ago, it developed an elevated birth rate compared to the closely related white-lipped species. Where in our world they would give birth to 1-4 young, these allohistorical peccaries would produce litters of 2-8 young. Their higher reproduction rate would, eventually, impact both their evolution and the evolution of animals sharing their territory. Ultimately, though, the collared peccary would still be recognizable in this world 500,000 BC: A half a million years of divergent evolution after the initial mutation, and the world of the collared peccary was changing. The most obvious changes were to the collared peccary itself. Where in the world we know they would only establish temporary, transient populations north of what we would call the Rio Grande, the allohistorical peccaries would develop a northern subspecies, ranging as far north as what would never be the southern border of Virginia. The northern subspecies was larger and hairier than the more familiar southern peccaries, better able to withstand the temperate (though relatively mild) winters of southeastern North Columbia. A more universal change in the species would come not as physical appearance, but as behavior. The higher birthrate had created Malthusian situations in some areas where the peccary sounders started to exhaust the environment’s capacity to support them. In some areas, their population had collapsed as they ran out of food and starved or migrated elsewhere. In other areas, however, the peccaries had managed to survive by developing dominance behaviors. Sounders where dominant sows controlled access to food by bullying family members into a hierarchy where the top females got access to prime foraging ground until they had their fill were less likely to starve out, if only because the largest and strongest (and therefore healthiest) females would be likely to survive a drought at the expense of the lower ranking members. Sounders where dominant boars kept lower ranking boars from reproducing were less likely to over breed, ensuring the population did not overgrow the local food level. Once these behaviors became established among peccaries, they spread very quickly. The more aggressive dominant individuals were more likely to successfully compete for food and mates, while the social cohesion of dominance based sounders allowed them to better compete with rival, non-dominant sounders and face predators more effectively. Over the next half a million years, these dominance behaviors would be selected for the whole species. Of course, other species would be affected by sudden growth in peccary population. The faster breeding collared peccaries had the nasty habit of becoming invasive, edging out species that competed for food, space, and water. In tropical South Columbia there was enough resources to share with other animals including their white lipped and scrub brethren, but in North Columbia collared peccaries drove out their long nosed and flat headed competitors from much of their shared range, as well as other animals that competed with them for food or, more crucially in their desert habitats, for water. As sheep migrated southward, spreading from the land bridge that would also bring humans to the Columbias, down the spine of the Yut [OTL: Rocky] mountains, they ran into a major obstacle in the form of these peccaries. In the deserts of the southwest, they drove away sheep from watering holes, preventing them from establishing a population there. In this world, the desert subspecies of sheep would never exist, and their biomass would instead be taken up by grazing horses. Standing outside of this world, the result is remarkable. We know that in a world without these mutant peccaries, the horse would have gone extinct. And the difference in the presence of horses, as well as the difference in peccary behavior, would dramatically alter the fate of human societies. 12,000 BC: The end of the ice ages and the beginning of the Holocene were disastrous for many species, many of which had already been going in a downward spiral in terms of population and health as the climate rapidly cooled, warmed, and re-cooled over the previous thousands of years. Combined with human hunters, this new warming period and the environmental change it brought was the final death blow for many species. North Columbian camels, shrub-ox, mastodons, mammoths, saber-tooths, dire wolves, and many other creatures died off under pressure from human hunters and changing environments. Horses were among the megafauna species to survive the extinction in North Columbia, although they were extirpated from much of their range. Two landraces would survive in southwestern and central North Columbia. On the Great Plains, a single herd would survive on the edge of the Yut [OTL: Rocky] mountains. Although nearing extinction at this time, migrants from the deserts would provide this group with enough genetic diversity to survive and to eventually recolonize the Great Plains alongside vast herds of bison. These horses were more similar to the steppe horses of Eurasia, adapted for a cool environment that required growing thick winter coats, as well as great level of endurance to move between far-flung sources of water. In the southwestern deserts that separated North from Middle Columbia, the horses that would survive that seemed in some ways to be almost a separate species from their close relatives in the Plains. They had short, glossy fur that had a bright sheen to it, making them appear almost metallic. They did not grow winter coats, as the mild weather of the deserts did not require it and growing too much fur during the hot summers was a sure way to die. They had a dense network of veins on the surface of their skin, which served to cool them off in the scorching desert heat. They were not perfectly adapted. The vein network meant that, when cut, they bled pretty profusely (somewhat like a human getting cut on the head), and they had a metabolism that was as rapid as their plains brethren. This meant that they grew and reproduced as fast as the horses of the Old World, but it also made them more vulnerable to heat stroke. But what’s bad for the individual is not always bad for the species, and these maladaptive traits did contribute to their survival-as well as eventually making them especially useful to the humans, the great predators that had almost destroyed them but would eventually become their greatest protectors. A fast metabolism meant milk production, and profuse bleeding made it easy to harvest blood from horses, gaining protein from them without killing them. These foodstuffs would be difference between life for death for the early pastoralists of the Columbias. Peccaries had done quite well for themselves at this point in time, as their species was one of the most widespread in the Columbias. Even with their habit of standing and facing predators, which made them vulnerable to human predation, their high birthrate ensured that they would survive and even thrive. The northern peccaries maintained a broken range from the Martial [OTL: Pacific] coast to the Atlantic, across mountains, deserts, and swamps while the southern population had a single, unbroken range from the deserts of Middle Columbia down to the temperate plains of South Columbia.