People in Cuba love their animals and the country seems to be pet friendly. Surely, animals are way more free to roam around than they are in other countries. Anywhere you go, there are dogs walking about, some of them pure breed dogs. Most of them are actually owned by families, but at times they befriend tourists and beg for food, other times they go throught garbage (however, I must say that the island is incredibly clean and only seldomly there is garbage in the streets).
What is more surprising, however, is that anywhere in Cuba you will see chickens, pigs, sheeps and goats, horses and even cows. Most families keep chickens for eggs. However, chickens are not kept in cages but freely roam in the streets and gardens, picking on just about anything (is there anything more free range?). You may find that chickens and pigs are eating right next to you in gorgeous Playa Maguana. It is not surprising to be woken up by a chicken in Vedado, Havana. Less than surprising to see a chicken in the main square of Vinales, or even next to the pool in Las Terrazas. I wonder how a family knows which are its chicken, but nevermind that!
Goats, sheeps and pigs are almost as free in Cuba – especially in more rural areas – but you might find that the obnoxious smell at 4:30 pm in your casa particular in Trinidad centro historico is nothing more than the neighbours’s pigs eating. Again, is there anything more free range than this?
Horses in Cuba are mostly a means of transportation: everywhere you will see horse carriages, most of them pull up to 8 people, who have to pay a price to get on the carriage. Horses are also used to clean gardens from unwanted grass – they will eat that, and leave the lown so neat and tidy! Donkeys, on the other hand, are used to transport goods.
Cows are used to work the land, or so I was told.
Cows and horses are property of the state, which explains why all of them are marked and why it is very very hard to find beef in Cuban menus. It is actually forbidden to eat horse meat and even beef (some say it is because it is too expensive for them to buy it, some say the government forbids it for health reasons). Apparently, it is a very bad crime to kill horses and cows, and if for some reason one of them dies the state has to open an investigation to make sure it died of natural causes!
Seeing these kinds of animals roam (almost) freely is surely a more interesting experience than seeing crocodiles and dolphines forced to live in small cages or aquariums. Anyways, if you like animals, you will not miss a chance to see loads. And do not forget to carry goggles to see the coral reef!