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Catalogue Ten, Part Four, Vol. III, The Ranching Catalogue, H-L

tive where there were no fences; it kept nearly wild cattle near the cowpens and accustomed to

humans. On Saturdays, herders scattered handfuls of salt in the grass or on flat stones. Once the

animals were used to it, herders could withhold salt before an overland drive, then use it to lure

the cattle along the route.


British herders had begun using trained herd dogs in the fifteenth century, they had long been

important in droving. Dogs were taught to chase cattle until the bovines formed their classic de-

fense circle, which effectively bunched them together. “Bull-dogging, a term from eighteenth-

century Britain, refers to the working of cattle and hogs with bulldogs. The custom spread to

the colonial South in the 1700s. These herder dogs were called Catahoula, Tennessee brindle,

or leopard dogs. They were medium-sized hounds, spotted or striped in random patterns, with

light-colored eyes. They could bring down a wild cow or hog by grabbing the animal’s nose, lip,

or ear and pulling it to the ground. The best cow dogs were trained to pull or “cut” a particular

cow from the herd. Dogs were used more often than horses, but horses were sometimes taught

the canine techniques. The quarter horse, bred for speed in short bursts, was trained to operate

as dogs did. Using back-and-forth movements, it moved a cow away from the herd just as a dog

would. A rider on a trained cutting horse is unnecessary because, in Jordan’s words, “a quarter

horse trained as a cutter is well named—it is three-quarters dog.”Modern rodeo events still echo

the early practice of working animals to the ground by hand. “Bulldogging” was an innovation

of Bill Pickett, a black Texas cowboy of South Carolina heritage. Pickett used his teeth like cow-

dogs did, to bite the upper lip of the animal in order to bring it down.


Bullwhips were standard in the American Southeast; they were about twenty feet long and

made of rawhide strips braided together with ends left loose. In the hands of a skilled drover they

were highly effective in maneuvering cattle. Some sources claim that Georgia-Florida “crackers”

were named after the sound of the whip as it snapped above the heads of their oxen, but that’s not

true. It was an English term from the 1400s, used to refer to someone disparagingly, or as a liar.


About 1750 a distemper hit South Carolina, wiping out many of the cattle, and back-country

bandits stole cattle and tore up cow-pens. Disorder and anarchy were common, and the cattle

industry in the region never recovered. By 1840 most of the South Carolina cattle herders had

moved to the pine country of east Texas, or into Georgia and Florida. In the early 1700s, Cher-

okee Indians began herds of their own, so did Seminoles, Creeks, and Chickasaws. Later the

Indians took the cattle culture to eastern Oklahoma when they were forced to move to Indian

Territory. It was during this move into Spanish territory that the industry picked up elements of

French and Spanish practice.White and Indian herders had to alter their techniques in the new

environment; open country was hard to manage with dogs, range grass had a high saline con-

tent that made salt less valuable, and the use of horses and ropes replaced dogs, whips, and salt.

The heritage and practices of Scotland, a land steeped in cattle-keeping, have been particu-

larly influential in the AmericanWest. In 1970, John McPhee described a trip he made to his an-

cestral homeland in the Hebrides Islands, twenty-five miles west of Scotland. There he found a

community of seventeen crofts (small cattle-based farms) and seven farms (a


being more

than forty-nine acres under cultivation).The land was owned by a laird, or landowner, who held

it through inheritance and rented the parcels to tenant crofters. The small-farm society of Scot-

land had been primitive, each family tilling a small patch of ground and cattle grazing together

in a commonly held pasturage. Families lived in houses built of stone with thatch roofs. Peat

blocks were gathered locally and burned as fuel.“Cattle and horses lived in the houses, too, or in

adjacent byres [cow barns],”McPhee pointed out.“The animals often used the same entrance the

people used.”


It is hard to imagine people who lived closer to their cattle or their clan.

Clans—small family groupings—had formed regional governments in Scotland for seven

hundred years until the Battle of Culloden Moor. English armies defeated the Scottish clans at

Culloden in 1745, and afterward the clan chiefs became the landowners—lairds—in the modern

sense. The English government replaced land held in common with land held in fee simple—

with no restrictions on the transfer of ownership. Private ownership was put in the names of

the chiefs, their clansmen were made their tenants, and the system of small-scale cattle ranching