Well before the western cowboy, the founding of the United States, or even the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock, cracker cattle and cracker horses lived in Florida. Now the breed that almost went extinct in the 1960s is back on the rise.
Despite the heat, parasites and thick brush: cracker cattle and horses seem to thrive even under Florida’s harsh conditions. And that makes them great livestock for Florida farmers. But cross-breeding over the years almost wiped out the species. Stephen Monroe with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says the department got involved to save living history and when Spanish dignitaries visited a few years back, they couldn’t believe what they saw.
“And they cancelled their flight they were supposed to leave that afternoon. One of the gentlemen was a horseman. And he spent two hours just following the horse around. He said, ‘in our country we bred them out of existence. We didn’t know better. We thought we were in improving them. We bred them out of existence,” says Monroe.
Now there’s a Florida Cracker Cattle Association and it holds an annual public auction of the cattle and horses.