Florida will celebrate the historic arrival of cattle in the New World a little later than planned.
The Great Florida Cattle Drive, initially planned for December 2021, has been pushed back until December 2022. No firm date has been set. Other state celebrations of Florida’s 500th years of cattle ranching will also be postponed.
“The drive is scheduled for December of 2022 at this time,” explained Doyle Conner Jr., of the Florida Cow Culture Preservation Committee. He said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the planning efforts for at least one year.
“As we get back into planning, those decisions will be finalized,” he explained.
Initial plans for the cattle drive call for a group of Florida cow hunters to spend a week herding approximately 1,000 cattle from Deseret Ranch in St. Cloud, zigzagging on a trail for about 60 miles to Kenansville. The drive will go through areas of the state that are still in their natural state, or as close as anything gets to it in Florida. Cattle drives do not move quickly; The herd will cover about 10 to 12 miles a day. It will take two to three days just to get off the Deseret Ranch, which covers more than 300,000 acres and spans three counties.
The cattle drive will honor the history of Florida and the history of the cattle industry. In 1521, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon brought the first cattle and horses to Florida’s shores. He attempted to settle in the land of the Calusa people around present-day Fort Myers but was sent packing by those Florida natives who had no interest in any European neighbors. The livestock remained, however, and from that day the cattle industry has been important to Florida and Florida has been important to the cattle industry of the United States.
In 1995, the Florida Cow Culture Preservation Committee celebrated Florida’s 150th Birthday by driving 1,000 head of Cracker cattle about 100 miles through some of Florida’s most beautiful and historic ranchland. More than 600 riders also made the journey, trying to stay as true as possible to the original cow hunter experience.
Participants wore authentic clothing, slept on the ground under the stars each night and enjoyed the adventure of a lifetime. The nightly cow camps included programs about the state’s history. This event was recognized as the largest celebration of the Sesquicentennial in the state.