Pineywoods cattle (aka Woods, rakestraw) are a part of the family of Colonial Spanish cattle that were introduced to the New World over 500 years ago by the Spaniards. Corriente, Longhorn, Criollo, and Florida Crackers all belong to this group of cattle and over time these groups adapted to their new areas to become what they are today which are regionally adapted landraces. These cattle take their name from the Pine Barrens or “Piney Woods” region of the Coastal Plains South and once were found from western South Carolina into east Texas. Vast tracts of yellow or longstraw pines covered this area and underneath this canopy was a massive grassland of various types of native grasses that provided grazing for the flocks and herds of the European settlers.
Pineywoods come in a variety of colours such as red, yellow, brindle, black, blue and dove grey with varying amounts of spotting and roaning and are small to medium in size with horn length varying from long and twisted to short and crumpled with a few polled (hornless) ones also. Many of the cows possess excellent udders and have been traditionally used as milk cows. Pineywoods cattle are very fertile and long lived with cows calving well into their late teens and early twenties and are extremely good mothers that will violently protect their young from predators if necessary.
Several factors led to the decline in their numbers beginning in the late ‘40’s and early ‘50’s as timberland was clear cut and put into so called “improved” pastures and the stock law began to come into play ending the centuries old practice of open range herding by the people of the rural South. With improved pastures and more labour intense practices, breeds that heretofore could not survive in the hostile environment of the region began to take the place of these hardy animals. It wasn’t long before only a few determined folks were all that kept them.
Beginning in the early 1980’s, the American Minor Breeds Association (now the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) attempted to find the remaining herds of these cattle and document their history. Dr. Phil Sponenberg and others began visiting the region and locating these old time cattle and through his efforts breeders that had not known of each other before began to find that there were others out there who still had these cattle. Interest among locals began to grow as they found commercial breeds harder and more expensive to and they remembered the traditional cattle of the region as being hardy and thrifty. Producers began to realize that an association and registry was needed and it is from this realization that the Pineywoods Cattle Foundation was formed.
- Griffen Yellow