The Tropical Range

Cattle ranching is one of Collier County's oldest industries.

Tropical Range
By the early 1900s settlers such as Robert Roberts, Jehu Whidden and Robert Carson had built up herds of native Florida "scrub cows" on the high, open rangeland around Immokalee and Corkscrew Island. Many of the descendants of these pioneer cattlemen are still active in ranching and agriculture today.

Ranching in early Collier County had all of the features of cattle ranching in the Old West, including spring and fall roundups, branding irons, corrals, rustlers, and long cattle drives across tropical prairies to the cow town of Fort Myers, where cattle changed hands before shipment to Cuba.

Unlike Western cowboys, Florida cowmen used braided leather whips 12 to 18 feet long to work their herds and relied on fast "catch dogs" to chase down strays. Heat, rain and mosquitoes added to the discomfort of spending long hours in the saddle.

The arrival of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in Immokalee in 1921 accelerated the development of the County's cattle industry by providing ready access to northern markets. The deadly cattle tick was finally brought under control in the 1940s and South Florida herds were steadily bred up with purebred Brahman, Hereford, Black Angus, Santa Gertrudis and Red Devon stock.

The scrawny Florida cows that once fed Confederate soldiers during the Civil War had, by the 1960s, given way to fine herds of registered beef cattle.