Feral hogs have been in Georgia since the 1520’s. They first were brought into Georgia by the early Spanish expeditions (Quejos 1521 / Ayllon 1526 / Soto 1540 / Luna 1560) as walking commissaries for the large parties of men looking for gold. They provided an important source of food and lard while reproducing rapidly. Unfortunately there are no accurate records on the exact number of hogs that entered Georgia, escaped, or were traded to the Native Americans for corn, beans and other staples to vary the Spanish explorers diet. Later, the Spanish reentered Georgia to jealously defend "their land" from other European encroachment. Even the Okeefenokee Swamp was explored around 1597 by Fray Pedro Ruiz looking for French or English trespassers.
While I’d like to think that some of the feral hogs could trace their lineage back to these hardy ancestors it is unlikely that these first immigrants were able to survive this drastic environmental change.
The most likely first viable colony of breeding hogs came from the missions where the Spanish hogs were given the opportunity to acclimate themselves to the dangers of the new environment. The Santiago de Oconi mission was established near the Okeefenokee swamp in 1620 for the native tribes, the Ibihica and the Oconi, but was destroyed in 1656. Also around this time, European diseases wiped out most of the native tribes of Georgia, leaving large areas of land and large groups of animals without owners. In the seventeenth century, the domestic Spanish hogs and the European wild hogs resembled each other very closely. Various domesticated animals could have escaped into the swamp and survived including the Spanish hogs and became feral.
The area of Florida and Georgia proved ideal breeding ground for the new immigrants. Hogs can multiply rapidly given the right conditions with plenty of food and to an omnivorous feral hog, anything is edible; acorns, roots, baby and wounded animals if they can find them, even poisonous snakes. You never find snakes in a hog pen. If a snake bites a hog, due to their protective shield, the bite doesn't bother the hog (unless the hog is very small) and the snake usually ends up becoming a source of protein for the hog. The domestic Spanish hog of the 1500s was one of the sources for the genetic material of the piney woods rooter hogs.
Another genetic source for the rooter came from the English settlers to the North. Around 1607, the English established the Virginia colony at Jamestown. In 1733, James Oglethorpe established an English colony in Georgia with one hundred and fourteen people from England. By 1736 there were roughly two thousand Georgia citizens. The first colonists were mostly tradesmen and farmers who were used to the old usufruct rights of letting their cattle and hogs run loose and used English style earmarks (cuts in the ear/s) to identify animal ownership. Most hog owners would check on their hogs by every so often feeding a few ears of corn to the sounder each night. This allowed them to see if a pig was missing and alert the neighbors to the possibility of a four or two-legged predator in the area. Hogs that couldn’t be enticed by an ear of corn to the crib would be the first sought when the farmer wanted fresh meat. The colonist’s diet consisted largely of salt pork, usually fried with corn bread, sweet potatoes, and molasses. Fresh meat was rare with the exception of wild game. The economy of the colony were based on barter, trading surplus goods for needed goods or skills, such as hogs for cloth, a side of bacon for shoeing a horse, a sow for an ox, or bacon for furs which could be traded for a gun.
Swine were the most common livestock although cattle, cats, chickens, and dogs were also found on the farms. Although cattle were present in large numbers, there wasn’t a market for cow meat. Cattle were raised principally for muscle power (oxen) or for their hides. A farm manager in Virginia in the seventeenth century was fired for letting the cattle get too healthy. It was felt that a skinny cow gave better leather than a fat cow as you had to render all the tallow out of the hide before you could use it for shoes, harness, etc.
Normally hens were left alone to lay eggs but roosters better watch the foxes, possums, raccoons, and the farmer when it was his turn to feed the parson on a Sunday evening. An old adage was "When a poor man eats a chicken, one of them is sick!".
Fences were put up to keep cattle and hogs out of gardens and grain fields not keep an animal in a pen. In those days, forests of oak, hickory, and beech covered vast areas and hogs were allowed to forage through them during the day gleaning any available food they could find.
Under these conditions the Spanish feral and English domesticated hogs freely intermingled their genes and multiplied, developing into what were termed "razorbacks" or "piney woods rooters". "Razorbacks" because when a male hog is excited, his mane of stiff hair bristles stick up so far and thin. The piney wood rooters because a hog will "root" around in the leaf decay looking for roots and bugs to feed on and since their location was the "Piney Woods"…
The piney woods hogs are shorter and stockier than the Eurasian wild boars. Also they tend to be more territorial than most present day feral hogs and do not tend to migrate until they deplete all available food or had water supply problems. So all a man needed to do was let his hogs forage for themselves, mark them once a year, and harvest the surplus as needed. Neighbors cooperated in rounding up and marking the cattle and hogs using baits of corn that the stock would follow or would use cur dogs to herd the gather into catch pens. After capture, the adult animals were separated according to brands, marks or types (color, shape or markings) and, with their young, allocated to the proper owners. The more crafty and cunning hogs were never captured and remained free roaming as feral hogs without mark or brand.
During the nineteen twenties and thirties small farm families moved from the country into the city where higher paying jobs were available abandoning livestock to forage for themselves. City people noticed the peculiar habits of their country cousins and jokes, movies, and books depicting their lifestyle in a humorous light became common. Very little of the stories had any basis in fact.
Free roaming domestic hogs ran loose on open range as late as the 1950’s. In the fifties after WWII, large groups of people broke their connection to the land and moved to the city working at factory jobs where money was more plentiful. Families now had more spending money to buy items they normally couldn’t have afforded. An old fashion cur dog was no longer "good nuff", they started buying registered dogs like Fox terriers (like Asta), collies (Lassie), or German Shepherd Dogs (Rin Tin Tin). Family cars became more common. Changes in eating habits also occurred because people had more money; they no longer wanted whole grain bread but desired white bread, molasses went out of favor and was replaced with refined white sugar, and "soft fat" was not as desirable as "hard fat". If you notice, we switched to a less healthy diet. The "hard fat" can only be obtained from the Chinese or Chinese hybrid breeds of hogs that are feed a high grain diet and hormone supplements.
The Chinese breeds first came to England in the 1770s and were used to "upgrade" the European hog breeds by increasing the amount of fat in the muscle, giving the meat a nice marbling. These improved breeds spread to America and the hog breeds that could "root out" a living in the woods were no longer the preferred breed of choice. The Choctaw is an example of what a common, original European hog breed was like.
The first "true wild hogs" were brought into the western part of New Hampshire in 1888 and released into a 26,000-acre enclosure named the Blue Mountain Forest in Sullivan County by the late Austin Corbin for hunting purposes. But the importation that really established the European Wild Boar in the South occurred after the turn of the twentieth century. In 1908, the Whiting Manufacturing Company of England bought a large tract of land on Hooper’s Bald Mountain in Graham County, North Carolina. Around 1909 Mr. George Gordon Moore established a game preserve. On April 1912 a shipment of 14 young European wild hogs were released onto a 500-acre hog lot with a split rail fence nine rails high. They included 11 sows and 3 boars weighing from sixty to seventy pounds. The hogs were purchased from an agent in Germany who claimed they originally came from the Ural Mountains of Russia. The hogs arrived in Murphy on a train and were transported to the lot by ox cart with a sow dying enroute. From the beginning, the lot was not hog tight and some escaped by rooting out and returned at wild. Most of the hogs remained in the lot steadily increasing their number for eight to ten years. In the early nineteen twenties a hunt with dogs was conducted. Of the sixty to one hundred hogs in the pen at that time, only two were killed but several escaped during the hunt scattering into the surrounding mountains where they met up with some piney wood rooters and freely mingled their genes with the already well blended feral domestic hog mixture common in the South.
Over time this new mixture became known as "Russians", a term used to describe the type of hog similar to the ones that came from the Ural Mountains of Russia. Pure Russian boars generally have longer legs and snouts and their head to body ratio is much greater than a feral hog. They also tend to have shorter, straighter tails.
Domestic hogs still escape from pens and other enclosures and "head for the hills" to go wild. The modern domesticated hog is much larger than the earlier hogs that went feral with some reaching weights over half a ton. A cross between these two divergent stocks can create a wild hog of gigantic proportions.
CorrienteTexas LonghornFlorida Cracker/Pineywoods
The Corriente can be traced back to the first cattle brought to the new world by the Spanish as early as 1493. These cattle were hardy breeds chosen especially to withstand the ocean crossing and adapt to their new land. They were brought to the West Indies and south Florida, as well as to Central and South America. Over the centuries the descendants of these cattle bred for different purposes - milk, meat and draft animals. They also adapted through natural selection to the various regions in which they lived. Eventually, their descendants spread across the southern U.S. and up the coast of California.
In the early 1800's, European and other breeds were introduced to the new world, and by the 1900's many ranchers in the Americas were upgrading their herds with modern beef cattle. Nearly pure descendants of the original Spanish cattle almost disappeared, but some managed to survive with little human care or intervention in remote areas of Central and South America, and in very limited numbers in some areas of the southern U.S.
Today there is evidence of a worldwide growing interest in preserving various strains of these hardy, native cattle. Cattle associations in Spain, South America and Florida are making efforts similar to the N.A.C.A.'s to recognize their attributes, though few actually support registries.
The Name "Corriente": In Central and South America, the various descendants of the early Spanish cattle are generally referred to as "Criollo." In parts of northern Mexico, they are often called "Corriente," although this term is frequently used for any small cattle of indiscriminate breeding and not just for the type of cattle recognized by the N.A.C.A. "Corriente" became the most common term used at the border to refer to the cattle purchased for rodeo use. Consequently, most North American cattlemen, ropers and doggers know this name, and it was chosen by the founders of the N.A.C.A. to be used for this registry.
John E. Rouse, in his book, World Cattle, Vol. III, Cattle of North America, explains the names used in Mexico.
"Descendants of the original Spanish cattle, little influenced by modern breeds, are now seen only in the remote parts of the country. These are generally known as Criollo cattle, although in the state of Sonora the term Corriente is more common, and in Baja California the word Chinampo is used. All these terms, meaning "common cattle" or "cattle of the country" are applied to more or less pure descendants of the Spanish cattle, as well as to the indiscriminate mixtures of these and more recently introduced breeds.
In Florida, the few remaining small, native cattle - cousins of the Mexican Corriente are called Scrub cattle or Cracker cattle, and similar cattle in Louisiana are called Swamp cattle.
Regardless of the name, the N.A.C.A. has made great inroads toward defining, describing and preserving these cattle as a specific breed.
The photographs and information contained on this page are provided courtesy of the North American Corriente Association, P.O. Box 12359, N. Kansas City, MO 64115. Phone: (816) 421-1992
Florida Cracker Cattle are Florida's equivalent to the better known Texas Longhorn. Florida Cracker Cattle, Texas Longhorn Cattle and the various breeds of Central and South America cattle known collectively as Criollo cattle all descend from the original cattle imported into the Americas by the Spanish. The name Florida Cracker has only been used in recent years. Previously the cattle have been referred to as Piney Woods, Florida Scrub or Florida Native Cattle. While Florida Cracker cattle are, in general, similar in appearence to Texas Longhorn cattle, they are smaller in size and do not have the same extreme horn length as the Texas Longhorn. The nutrition available to what were essentially feral cattle for hundreds of years and thick "scrub"--heavily wooded lowland areas--in which they lived would not have been conducive to the survival of larger, longer-horned animals. While the horn length of Florida Cracker cattle is not extreme, their shapes can include very interesting twists in aged cows and steers. Colors and spotting patterns are very similar to those observed in Texas Longhorns.
The mature weight of Florida Cracker cows is usually under 900 pounds with those of so-called dwarf or "guinea" animals being much smaller. The age at puberty of well-fed Cracker heifers is very young, even prior to weaning and their fertility is excellent. These traits along with their ability to withstand the heat, insects and humidity of Florida's long summers made them very well-adapted for low-input beef production.
In spite of the importation of purebred breeds of northern European origin beginning as early as the 1850s, large numbers of Florida Cracker cattle were found until the mid-1950's but were then nearly wiped out through crossbreeding with Brahman, Hereford and Angus. Several herds of Cracker Cattle in Florida as well as similar types in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia were preserved by families that appreciated their hardiness, heat tolerance and heritage. The State of Florida has been involved in preservation programs for Florida Cracker Cattle since 1970 and currently has herds maintained at four locations. In 1989 the Florida Cracker Cattle Breeders Association was formed to promote the preservation of Florida Cracker Cattle and over 400 animals were evaluated and registered to serve as foundation animals.
Don Juan de Onate Exppedition January 26, 1598
In January 26, 1598, Don Juan de Oñate left Zacatecas, Mexico to establish a settlement in the New Mexico Kingdom. The muster formed a four-mile long procession and counted 400 Spanish and Mexican men of whom 130 took wives and children. In addition a larger contingent of Native Americans accomanied the Spanish and acted interpreters plus eight seraphic apostolic, preaching priests with two lay brothers and friars. Plus 7000 head of livestock "as meals on wheels". The pioneers arrived at the banks of the Rio Grande on April 20, 1598 and crossed into what is now the USA at El Paso, Texas. El Paso originally was named "El Paso del Norte" meaning "the Passageway to the North". On April 30 the colonists gathered together for a meal, blessing, and proclamation in what is arguably the first Thanksgiving, 22 years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. The settlers traveled up the Rio Grande 400 miles, past the present capitol of Santa Fe, to the American Indian pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh meaning "the place of the strong people". There they christened their settlement "San Juan de los Caballeros" meaning "Saint John in honor of the Cowboys" to tribute the horseman for helping make the first European settlement of the west possible. In 1610 the capitol was moved to Santa Fe. Santa Fe was originally named for it’s patron saint
"La Villa Real del Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assisi" or
"The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi". The push to settle the American Southwest was slow following the expeditions in 1528 and 1540, but were speeded up by the desire to counter the threat of the English who would eventually establish their first permanent settlement of Jamestown in 1607. At that time period the American west was of little mineral value to Spain. Mexico at that time was flush with gold and silver mines. The prize in the mind of Europe was the riches of the Caribbean, control of which was hard fought by England, France and Spain. For this reason Spain placed strategic importance in establishing a settlement at Saint Augustine, Florida in 1565 to protect it’s Caribbean ports from the English.
The American cattle industry started with the arrival of the Spanish. Cattle did not exist in the Americas, nor the horse or sheep. The Spanish brought horse and cattle to Saint Augustine, Florida in 1565 but the cattle did not flourish. In the west the Spanish established 506 "Encomenderos" or feudal estates from which several current cities developed in the Sonoran Desert between 1521 and 1555. At Vera Cruz in Mexico Gregorio Villalobos imported a handful of cattle from Spain and the cattle industry was born in North America.
It is when the American cowboy was born...
The ranches and cattle spread to the American Southwest. From each of those first expeditions and settlements the Corriente breed of cattle would be allowed to graze on the open plains and they flourished in the American southwest. By the 1860's it was estimated that 6 million head of cattle were in Texas alone. The English and French method of managing cattle prior to the Spanish was on foot with a dog within a fenced enclosure, as the cattle ate the grasses in one field they would be led to a new pasture while the grass recovered, the English term is "Drover". With the cattle grazing unimpeded in the open grasslands the Spanish skill of managing the cattle was developed over the next 200 years and was unique to Mexico and the American Southwest. It is when the American cowboy was born along with the design of the western saddle, necessary roping skills and most of the terms we associate with the southwest such as "corral", "lasso", etc, all derived from the Spanish terms. Lariat for instance is derived from "La Reata" or "the rope". In a sense the reported death of the Cowboy empire parallels the decline of the Spanish empire and was due to the adoption of the American invention of barbed wire fences.
The Spanish introduced the American Indians to sheep and the wheel. The sheep transformed the Navaho Indians from a nomadic, warring culture to a ranching culture. The Navaho prior to the Spanish would raid the farming cultures of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. The name Navaho originates from the Pueblo name, "Apache Nabahu". Apache meaning, "enemy" and Nabahu meaning "cultivated fields", or the "raiders of the fields". The Spanish spelled this as Navaho since in Spanish "v" is pronounced sort of like a "b".
The cattle prospered so much in the Southwest a shortage of vaqueros (cowboys) developed. The settlements taught the Native American converts how to cowboy. Teaching the American Indian how to ride and cowboy was strictly forbidden by the Spanish laws, but the distances to the governing cities in Mexico were so great and the families felt so isolated they did what they needed to survive. The American Indians proved themselves exceptionally skilled.
The adaptable Corriente cattle allowed loose on the prairies in the 1600’s evolved by the 1800’s from the natural forces of the land into a breed which is now termed "Texas Longhorn". The Longhorns, more massive than the Corriente, are unique to the American Southwest and are truly an animal fashioned by the nature of the Southwest. The Texas Longhorn, end product of "survival of the fittest", because of its hardiness and aggressiveness, became the foundation stock for the American cattle industry. The extremely long horns were used in the manner of a saber as the animal would sweep it’s head side to side for defense against the wolf predators of the area. The longer the horn, the greater the distance the wolves were kept at bay.
The Spanish absorbed the Native culture as part of our own.
With an overabundance of Longhorns the Spanish recruited Americans to ranch in Texas, actually pronounced ‘teh-hos‘, or Tejas. The intentions of the American Colonists immigrating to the Spanish territory of Texas in the 1800's was to farm, ranching was an unknown foreign culture and had to be taught. The best recruits were from the south who had been introduced earlier to the Spanish culture and cattle. Before cotton was king in the South the largest industry was cattle, ergo the strong Southern culture in Texas. The meeting of the Native American, Spanish, and American cultures borrowed from each other and produced what is the Southwest and cowboy culture of today. The Native American culture is the foundation for the Southwest culture, influencing the later cultures in ways which are forgotten. The Spanish absorbed the Native culture as part of our own. One of the Spanish contributions are the written records of events, customs which existed in the United States from 1503 are carefully logged in the diaries and official documents of the early Spanish pioneers. At that time period a Spanish widow could not obtain a divorce until proof was submitted to the Spanish court that her husband had indeed been killed in the Americas. Divorce documents still in existence provide us with detailed accounts of the expeditions of the pioneers who landed on the Florida coast on June 16, 1503 and walked across the South arriving in Mexico City in 1512. The pioneers were highly regarded as healers and medicine men by the Natives. Their accounts provide us with a description of the Native customs of the Southern United States 100 years prior to other European documents.
When the Santa Fe trail opened trade from St Louis, Missouri in the 1820’s the American colonists discovered in Santa Fe a new animal which was faster than an Ox, more sure footed, and with more stamina than a horse. The mule is a hybrid, the offspring of a mare (female horse) and a jack (male donkey). The mule gained popularity in Missouri and a great deal of trade with Santa Fe in the early days was for the mule. The "Missouri Mule" should actually be termed the "New Mexico mule". The mule would eventually spread from Missouri to all corners of the American Colonies and was instrumental in developing the railroads for opening the West to settlement.
The cattle drive is more than a celebration of place or event it is recognition for the origin of a new culture. The ceremonial cattle drive will emphasize the role of those first horsemen in developing the American cattle industry and the cowboy culture. It is our intent to honor the vaqueros of 1598 and the cowboys of today and illustrate the link between the two.
The Corriente breed of cattle can be traced back to the cattle brought to the New World in 1493 and to New Mexico in 1598. Nearly pure descendants of the original breed almost disappeared. "Corriente" became the most common term used at the US/ Mexican border to refer to this breed commonly purchased for rodeo use. In Baja California the term Chinampo is used. All the above terms mean "common or native cattle". In remote parts of Mexico the term "Criollo" is used. Criollo being a Franciscan religious sect of the 1500’s or in other words it’s use is a carry over meaning "cattle of the original Franciscan missions". at one time the missions were the largest cattle raising enterprises in the New World.
I n Florida the few remaining cousins of the Spanish cattle are called "Piney Woods, Native, Scrub or Cracker" cattle. In Louisiana they are called "Swamp Cattle". The Corriente resembles a smaller version of the Texas Longhorn although the horns are not as extreme. Colors and markings are similar to the Longhorn which varies from nearly solid reddish or brown to a spotted dark and white color. The Corriente was suited for the
Southwest for its ability to handle heat and long summers. the original spanish route "El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro" (The Road Royal of Lands Interior). El Camino is considered by most historians as the most important of all the national historic trails. It was the first highway introducing European culture to what is now the United States. It connected Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico over a distance of 1800 miles. By decree from the Spanish Crown the term Camino Real carried royal status, transport and tax privileges granted to villas and capitals it connected as opposed to the other trails used in 1500’s. El Camino overlaps ancient trails used by the American Indians for trade with the cultures of Mesoamerica to dates earlier than A.D. 1000.
The original settlers moved at the rate of 6 to 7 miles per day. They traveled with ox carts. The man made obstacles which did not exist 400 years ago are Elephant Butte Lake, Caballo (Horse) Lake and fences.
Francisco Serna Osuna
Expedición de 1598
Española Valley Chamber of Commerce
417 Big Rock Center
Española NM 87532