The Story of the Pineywoods
In 1521, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León made landing on the southwest coast of La Florida with two colonizing ships. On board were 200 men, 50 horses, and other livestock including 7 head of Andalusian cattle. These were the first cattle to set hoof on North American soil in what we now call the United States. Shortly after landing, the colonists were attacked by Calusa warriors defending their land. Ponce de León was struck by an arrow dipped in the poisonous sap of the Everglade's manchineel tree. It would be his final voyage. His ships retreated to Cuba where he soon died of the wound. The first cattle however, remained strong, and thrived in this New World.
It is thought that the Spanish brought fewer than 300 cattle to the New World during their colonization period. From this small founding population four groups developed: Criollo (Mexico/Central America), California, Texas Longhorns, and the Southeastern Pineywoods and Cracker. The California strain eventually became extinct due to breeding problems and over- consumption during the Gold Rush. Everyone is familiar with the Texas Longhorns, the rangy animal of the Chisolm Trail and other cowboy history. And finally, the Florida Cracker/Pineywoods strain in the Southeast.
Pineywoods vs. Florida Cracker? Simply stated, the difference lies in geography. Pineywoods Cattle refer to cattle who largely evolved in the vast Piney Woods region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Florida Cracker cattle evolved across Florida, surviving subtropical conditions. They share much genetic similarity and are sometimes cross registered as both Pineywoods and Cracker.
Pineywoods in American History
From the late 1500's to the 1960's Pineywoods cattle made their mark throughout history. They were raised by colonists, but also by the five civilized tribes Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw who had thriving herds. During the Civil War, the Pineywoods were most certainly some of the cattle that fed soldiers and pulled cannons and wagons. After the war, Pineywoods oxen pulled timber from forests and hauled goods to market. They plowed the farmer's fields in the early light of dawn. And through it all they were also supplying milk, beef, tallow, and hides to the entire Southern population. Feedlots were unheard of and all beef was grass fed. Food was always local.
Beginning in the 1950's, feedlots sprung up across America. For the purpose of gaining weight on grain, the Pineywoods were seen as an "inferior" breed of cattle, as larger "improved" breeds were favored. Survival characteristics and disease resistance were bred out of these "improved" breeds such as Hereford, Angus, and Brahman while the goal of weight gain was achieved. Thankfully, a few families saved their Pineywoods for generations. What animals remain today are being used to carefully renew the breed.
These beautiful cattle are mild tempered, but very tough. They have a range of coloring from red, white, to brown, black and grey, and are delicate featured and small. From their ancient bloodlines they retain the characteristics of scrubland animals--disease resistance, easy births, low metabolism, low impact to watering areas. They are able to survive among brush and scrub eating leaves like goats. However, if given lush pasture to forage on they produce a lean, bold beef which has won it's place in the Slow Food Arc of Taste for "endangered foods." They are also listed on RAFT's Top Ten Endangered Foods in America.
Our animals have large amounts of the Holt bloodline, which is a line saved by a Georgia family. All of our animals are registered through the Pineywoods Cattle Registry and Breeders Association.
If you are interested in owning Pineywoods Cattle, visit our Breeding Stock page.