Central California
Cattle Country

"...for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills." Psalm 50 (49):10
Cattle grazing on a hillside

Discover the Cattle Country of Central California

Central California is wine country, no doubt, but that's been so only for the last 30 years at the most. And before that there was the attraction of a trip to the beach.

However, from the very first days of European settlement here, Central California has been cattle country.

During the mission period, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the mission system is estimated to have had a herd of beef cattle of roughly 400,000 head. Definitely "the cattle on a thousand hills".

During the Mexican period, after independence from Spain, the raising of cattle was nearly the sole industry in California. The rancheros traded tallow and dried cattle hides (called in those days - "California banknotes") to Boston traders who sailed around Cape Horn with manufactured goods.

Californios vaqueros roping a cattle

Over half the land in Central California is best-suited to and used for cattle ranching. This is the land of rolling hills and valleys where cattle efficiently harvest the native grasses and plants on the hillsides that would otherwise not be used productively. If you want a bit of variety in your getaway or vacation, you might consider visiting the cattle ranching areas of Central California.

What you will find is that there is no single area where all that is done is cattle ranching. It may have been so years ago, but today you will find vineyards interspersed among grazing pastures. Other places will have large plots with lettuce growing in the valley floor and cattle on the hillsides. If you drive along Highway 1 you'll see cattle grazing with a beach view.

The ranching areas are usually a bit off the "beaten track", but the rewards can be great.

Things to do in Cattle Country

First, there are the scenic and backroad drives in and around the cattle ranching areas.
wildflowers and green hills in the springtime. Hay fields ready for harvest in May and June. Abundant wildlife year-round: antelope, Tule elk, mule deer, wild pigs, bald and golden eagles, wild turkeys. All these things can be found in a visit to the cattle country of Central California. There are a number of interesting activities available as well here.

You might want to experience real country living and ranch life with a ranch stay.

Horseback riding through the hills and even participating in a real cattle drive is another option.

Great hunting is available with experienced guides - from large game to upland birds to ground squirrel hunts. No matter if you just pass through the cattle ranching areas, spend a day on one of the many activities, or plan your entire vacation there, you're sure to enjoy the time spent discovering the life of a quieter, simpler time.


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