Young and old, tourist and local, gathered recently at Roberts Ranch for the Immokalee Cattle Drive and Jamboree.
Thousands were on hand at Roberts Ranch, the longest running race in South Florida, to watch 200 Florida Cracker Cattle herded from Florida Seminole pasture land, through downtown Immokalee, and into Roberts Ranch.
Shuttle buses transported the crowd to drop points along the route on Main Street where they watched a group of 25-plus able-bodied cowboys and cowgirls on horseback, lead the herd along the route.
“We draw cowboys and cowgirls from Immokalee and Hendry County and the surrounding area,” said Amanda Townsend, museum director, Collier County Museums.
While the cowboys and cowgirls certainly did a fine job, it was the dogs who stole the show when it came to actually herding the cattle.
“The dogs are a big part of it,” Townsend said, “they almost exclusively use a Black Mouth Cur, that is fairly specific to Florida and to cattle ranching. They’re bred, raised and trained to do the job.”
I don’t know how many dogs they used today, but the dogs definitely do the most work of anybody.
“At one point during the drive one of the cows went a little bit astray and of course it was the dogs that got him back into line.”
There is an air of excitement and unpredictability to a cattle drive that proceeds right down Main Street. It was right at the beginning of the cattle drive that a black bull bolted from pack and toward the crowd of onlookers.
As the crowd gasped, seven of the Black Mouth Curs cut into action, barking and nipping at the bull’s heels. In less than a moment the dogs had the bull retuned to herd without incident.
The rest of the drive proceeded without incident. Cowboys and cowgirls were on horseback, and as many as 25 dogs encircled the herd as they moved through town, toward Roberts Ranch.
Back at the ranch, the herd was driven into a holding pen and the cattle drive was successfully completed.
“I saw the herd come in around the corner on the property. Everybody was in line and doing what they were supposed to do,” Townsend said. “The dogs looked a little tired at that point—and maybe some of the cowboys. I’m sure the cattle were. But they’re home and they’re all penned in now and the festivities will begin.”
Back at the ranch a number of activities were held for the attendees, including clogging and two alligator wrestling exhibitions.
“This event brings to life the history of Roberts Ranch, which originally was a cattle ranching homestead,” Townsend said. “It allows us to share an amazing and sometimes unknown history of Collier County with a larger group of people.”