Monday, January 2, 2012

Florida has it own Wild West

I love a good cowboy romance but I want to dispel the myth that cowboy stuff only happened in the west.  Florida has it owns wild history.  And while there are lots of similarities there are also some differences as well. This is not an exhaustive research project on Florida history but more some anecdotal information that might wet your appetite and give you a reason to seek out more information.

First Florida cattle like much of the cattle out west were descended from cattle brought in by the Spanish.  While the cattle out west developed into the long horn cattle the Florida cattle developed more of a short horn. Here's a link for Cracker Cattle.

While out west in Florida you had cow hunters.  They were cow hunters because there weren't the wide open plains of the west but scrub land full of oak, pine, and palmetto.

Cattle were free range and had to be gathered up out of the brush to drive to market.  Because they had to be hunted down the name was born.  Whips did play a part in scaring up the cattle and getting them moving just like out west.  Cattle were driven down central Florida to the Gulf coast near Ponte Rosa then loaded onto ships and sold to Cuba.  You can still check out the experience with modern cattle drives as well.

We had cattle and land barons as well, too.  One of the most famous is Jacob Summerlin.  During the early years of the civil war he was "encouraged" to sell his cattle to the Confederacy for Confederate script.  He used this script to buy up land all over central Florida.  Toward the end of the war when it got to hard to get the cattle up north he went back to selling the the Spanish in Cuba for hard cash.  So when the war ended he had lots of land and hard money to keep up with the taxes.  Pretty shrewd if you ask me.
And we had our own Indians as well.  The Seminole were a very real presence in Florida.  They were descended from Creek Indians from the southeastern US and also runaway slaves from the south.  There adapted well to life in Florida and learned to use the swamps to aid them in their survival.
Florida also had all kinds of crazy characters and there are lots of stories and legends just as big as any western tall tale.  Checkout the Cracker Storytelling on Facebook for more information.  Another site for more information is the Florida Memory Project.  This site has some great historic pictures so check it out.  And if you would like to learn more about Florida cow hunters and are planning a trip to Central Florida make time to visit Cow Camp located at Lake Kissimmee State Park.  When you visit cow camp you are literally stepping back in time.  If you ask about modern things like cars and roads they will give you a strange look.  Love to visit when there are those "rude" tourist who get all upset because the guy stays in character and you start playing along with the cow hunter.  Best day ever was the day we were there to witness the birth of a short horn calf, very cool.
So maybe this has given you a bit of insight into Florida's natural cattle history.  Make sure to check out some of the links above to learn about our rich wild history.


  1. Very interesting blog, we do tend to forget Florida has cowboys =) Welcome to blogging!

  2. Love your blog. Very attractive and your first post is fun to read.