Thursday, January 26, 2023

Cattle In Arizona

The Explorers brought cattle to North America
Cattle in the Arizona Territory Cattle are not native to North America, however they have been present in the Southwest for almost 500 years. 

Christopher Columbus brought cattle to eastern North American in 1493 and the Spanish explorer Vasquez de Coronado brought cattle, sheep and horses to what is now Arizona as part of his 1540 expedition from Mexico to locate gold for the Spanish crown. The expedition was unsuccessful, however. Livestock and people may have remained behind when the expedition returned to Spain. The cattle were likely Andalusian Cattle from Spain that were imported into Mexico. They are often termed “Criollo” or “Corriente” and are well adapted to arid landscapes.

Father Kino brought cattle to Southern Arizona
In the late 1600s the Jesuit priest Father Eusebio Kino established missions in northern Sonora and southern Arizona. He brought herds of cattle from Mexico with him and became known as an expert cattleman. 

Open range cattle ranching began in the 1870's
The remnants of these herds may have survived until the early 1800s when Apache raids on settlements, primarily for cattle and horses, occurred on a regular basis. Apache raiding ended in the early 1870s when the federal government established reservations to confine the mobile tribes. The era of “open range” cattle ranching soon began in southern Arizona.

Ranchers got cattle from various sources
Ranchers in southern Arizona obtained cattle from a number of sources. In the early years they came primarily from Mexico and Texas and were known as Mexican cattle and Texas Longhorns. Later on, ranchers experimented with some European breeds from eastern America: primarily Hereford, and Shorthorn and some Durham and Angus. Great cattle drives crossed the Arizona Territory from Texas to California and from California to Texas. Arizona ranchers incorporated new breeds into their herds in an effort to improve their stock. By the mid 1880s Herefords had become the most successful breed adapting well to the vast grasslands in the open range era.

Visit our exhibit to learn more
This article is from an Oro Valley Historical Society exhibit item on display at the Pusch House Museum. If you would like to discover more about Cattlemen, Cowboys, and Ranchin’ visit the Pusch House Museum at Steam Pump Ranch at 10901 N. Oracle from 9 to Noon on Saturday, January 28. This is the last week of the exhibit.
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