This part of Florida was pioneered by ‘cow hunters’ who rounded up wild cattle in the Kissimmee Valley. Descended from Spanish herds of the 1600s, the long-horned scrub cattle were flushed from the scrub and driven across the state to Punta Rassa, on the Gulf Coast. There they were sold for gold coins, and shipped to the markets in Cuba.
The tradition changed only a little when the area was converted to large, fenced ranges and railroads offered ranchers a domestic market around 1900. Lake Kissimmee State Park, just east of Lake Wales, features an 1880s ‘cow camp’ complete with a ranger ‘cow hunter’ who will happily share his rustic lifestyle with visitors.
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