A Spanish Vaquero Driving
His Cattle Through the Longleaf Forest to Market
(bolded words in text indicate key words
When European settlers arrived in the South, they found longleaf
pine trees towering over a carpet of grasses as far as their eyes
could see. All of this grass provided a cheap source of food for
the cattle. It was these Europeans who brought cows to America.
Unlike cattle-farms of today, fences were not used and cattle were
simply left free to roam about as they pleased. This picture shows
a Spanish vaquero (cowboy) in what is now Florida looking after
his vaca (cows).
This picture depicts a Spanish vaquero
(cowboy) looking in on his vaca
(cattle) herd in southeastern longleaf pine/wiregrass terrain
with an occasional saw palmetto thicket (Florida, South Alabama
or Georgia) circa late 1600's to 1763, 1783 to 1821. The long-horned
cattle used by the Spaniards in the New World trace back to the
estuarine marshes of Andalusia in Southern Spain as well as the
more wooded region of Extramadura in Western Spain. It is important
to remember that cows were not found in North America before Europeans
arrived. Scientists would call cows non-natives
of North America. These cattle the early Spanish settlers brought
with them were allowed to roam freely and became semi-feral, giving
birth to offspring which often displayed spotted and speckled color
patterns typical of feral animals.
The system of brands and brand
registration was three-fold. First, the fierro or iron brand was
burned into the animal's flank hide (note picture), second was the
senal or ear-mark. Lastly, the venta or sale brand was stamped on
the animal's shoulder as a bill of sale. The new brand was burned
below the venta brand and the new transaction was recorded. This
type of branding may seem a bit over done considering the discomfort
the animal must have endured during the ordeal. However, these brands
used by the Spaniards were considerably less elaborate than using
half the side of the animal required to place the full coat of arms
used on Spanish ranches prior to the time of bringing livestock
to the Americas.
At the close of the Revolutionary War, it was generally those of
Scotch-Irish decent who braved the hardships of the pine barrens
frontier and settled the longleaf region of what is today the Carolinas,
Georgia and Alabama. The herding practices of these cracker frontiersmen
were distinctively Celtic in origin. Typically, fences only enclosed
a few acres of "cowpen"
land on which subsistence crops were grown. Livestock
were simply turned out in the customary Celtic tradition of free-range
herding. This cattle culture also encouraged the habitual use of
fire to "freshen"
up of the forest. These people knew from the way cattle gravitated
to the fresh burns that the tender grass of the longleaf pine forests
would make them grow and fatten. Often, these forests would be burned
twice a year to provide adequate areas for the cattle to graze.
Key Words and Concepts (click
on for glossary definition): brand,