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“C” is for Cattle ranching

“C” is for Cattle ranching. Cow pens, cattle drives, and open range herding were important features of the agricultural landscape of colonial South Carolina. British settlers brought husbandry traditions to the colony as did enslaved West Africans. Cattle ranching, a lucrative frontier occupation, appeared first in the lowcountry where Black bondsmen became America’s first “cowboys.” Using the open range system, livestock foraged in the swamps, forests, and pastures. Periodically large cattle drives occurred to Charleston. The livestock was butchered and packed into barrels for shipment to Caribbean plantations and urban centers in northern colonies. By the early 1700s beef and pork were leading South Carolina agricultural exports. The cattle ranching tradition that germinated in South Carolina spread to the frontier and eventually developed into the large-scale ranching and cowboy culture typical of the American West.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.