Gainesville last stop on ‘Cattle Ranching’ tour; both exhibits free

Editors note: A complete list of opening day activities follows this release

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Grab your boots and mosey down to the Florida Museum of Natural History for the opening of “Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition” and “Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier, Photographs by Carlton Ward Jr.,” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 12.

“Visitors can experience the excitement of Florida’s cattle ranching culture through our opening day activities,” said Florida Museum of Natural History education coordinator Kendra Lanza-Kaduce. “The number of ranching- and cowboy-related activities and groups scheduled to participate make this the largest public opening event the Florida Museum has hosted. Visitors, young and old, will enjoy both exhibits.”

The free exhibits explore Florida’s ranching and cowboy legacy. “Florida Cattle Ranching” examines one of Florida’s oldest and economically significant traditions, from 16th-century Spanish explorers to Seminoles, Crackers and modern ranchers.

“Florida Cowboys” illustrates the vital role ranches play in Florida’s economic wealth and the conservation of wildlife, wetlands and natural areas as well as the grit and raw beauty of Florida’s ranch land.

Photographer Ward is scheduled to present three “walk and talk” tours of his “Florida Cowboys” exhibit, and discuss the important conservation role of cattle ranches in protecting the state’s natural landscape and environment.

“The exhibit focuses on Florida ranch lands and culture and the environment it protects,” Carlton, said. “It’s an unseen and tremendously important part of Florida.”Outside the museum, visitors may interact with Florida Cracker Horse Association members displaying Cracker cattle and horses, descendents of the first cows and horses brought to North America during Spanish colonial times.

A cow camp illustrating the life of 19th-century Florida cattle ranchers also offers the opportunity for visitors to interact with re-enactors and ask questions about Florida’s cattle ranching legacy.

Members of the Florida Cattleman’s Association plan to perform roping demonstrations and provide visitors the opportunity to learn and practice roping techniques. Award-winning whip poppers from Polk County also are scheduled to present demonstrations at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“We are excited to offer so many free and interactive opening day activities,” said Darcie MacMahon, Florida Museum assistant director for exhibits. “From learning roping tricks to whip popping to exploring a 19th century cow camp, these activities provide a fun way to explore a significant part of Florida’s history that many of our visitors may not be familiar with.”

Inside, visitors may learn about the cattle ranching industry from members of the University of Florida Block and Bridle Club, the Gator Collegiate Cattlewomen Association and representatives from various cattle breed organizations. Other planned activities include spur- and saddle-making demonstrations and displays of antique tools and ranching equipment collections.

Both exhibits run through May 8, and the Florida Museum of Natural History is the last stop on the “Florida Cattle Ranching” tour.

Cattle ranching originated in the 16th century when Spanish explorers brought cattle to Florida. Today, more than 1 million cattle graze on 5 million acres of pasture and woodland, and Florida is one of the top five beef producing states east of the Mississippi River.

“Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition” was produced by Florida Folklife Program, Department of State, and Florida Cultural Resources, Inc. Funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts/Folk & Traditional Arts, Florida Humanities Council, Florida Cattlemen’s Association, Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation, Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Cracker Cattle Association, Lalla Rook Tompkins, Iris Wall, and Susanne and Pete Clemons. Traveling Exhibition made possible by the Museum of Florida History.

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Source: Darcie MacMahon, 352-273-2053,
Writer: Leeann Bright
Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054,

Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition,” “Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier”
Opening Day Activities
Saturday, Feb. 12
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Cow Camp Reenactment
Travel back in time to a 19th century cow camp and experience what life was like for Florida cattlemen.

Livestock on the Lawn
Meet the cows that started one of Florida’s oldest traditions, Cracker cattle. Cracker horses, descendents of the horses brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers will also be displayed.

Roping Activity (Presented by the Florida Cattleman’s Association)
Watch as the experts perform exciting roping tricks. Visitors may learn roping techniques and test their skills on plastic mannequins.

Information Tables
Learn about Florida cattle, including information on different breeds, women’s involvement in the industry, and primitive tools and household items used by cattle ranchers in the past.

Whip Popping 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.:
Listen to the crack of whips and watch as performers demonstrate exciting tricks. Florida cattlemen of European descent are often called Crackers because of the loud cracking or popping noise of their whips.

“Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier” – Walk and Talk with Carlton Ward Jr.
11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.:
Meet photographer Carlton Ward Jr. and learn about Florida’s cowboys as he guides visitors through the exhibit “Florida Cowboys: Keepers of the Last Frontier, Photographs by Carlton Ward.”

Cowboy Narratives 2-2:30 p.m.:
Learn about the Florida Cracker experience from talented orators who will tell stories of life on the ranch.