Leather Cattle Whip

A Florida cattle herder used this 16-foot, wood-handled whip to rustle cattle in the late 1800s. Florida has long been a major beef producer.

Tampa Bay History Center Collection

In the late 1500s, long before the English established Jamestown in 1609, Spaniards reared cattle on Florida land. Some scholars even speculate Juan Ponce de León transported cattle to Florida. By 1900, there were an estimated 750,000 head of cattle in Florida and only 528,542 residents. After World War II, thanks in part to McDonald’s restaurants, American beef consumption increased by over 30 percent! Florida’s cattle industry boomed along with the nation’s burger consumption rates.

Three Fast Florida Facts

  1. For most of the 1700s, Seminole Indians, like Chief Cowkeeper, also known as Ahaya, owned the majority of Florida cattle.
  2. In 1915, only Texas had a larger cattle industry than Florida.
  3. Cattle roamed areas of south Florida until 1949, the year a law passed that closed the open range. Florida was the last state to pass a fence law.