During the California Gold Rush in the 19th century, exotic animals were imported to the US for a variety of reasons, including simple novelty.
In the middle of the 1800s huge numbers of people made their way to California in the hope of discovering untold riches. It was the California Gold Rush, and more than 300,000 prospectors made the journey to dig for the precious metal.
A recent article published in the journal California History explains that the metal wasn’t the only exotic part of life in California in the 19th century, as many of the prospectors imported nonindigenous animals to the area. They were brought over for food, but also allowed the prospectors to sell clothes and accessories made from the non-native species.
The animal that travelled the farthest was the kangaroo. It wasn’t brought in tofeed the growing population, but instead allowed the owner to charge people to see this rare, strange breed. In an era when the new residents weren’t sure if they could make money from gold, charging visitors to observe the rare Australian animal provided an alternative way to make a profit in those turbulent times.