California Cattle Drive – Moving cattle on horseback in Central California

Cattle drive

California Cattle Drive

The California cattle drive of the Old West still lives in Central California in an abbreviated form. Cowboys moving cattle on horseback is still an efficient method.

The days of open range are long gone, but not some of the methods used. Cowboys on horseback (and cattle dogs) are still used to move cattle from one grazing pasture to another.

In Central California, not all of the pastures available to the ranchers are connected. So this fact demands that the cattle be moved out onto the county roads and driven to the next grazing grounds where there is feed.

If you are taking a scenic drive along one of the many Central California backroads this is definitely something to keep in mind. It may be tempting to speed along, but you never know what might be around the next corner – wildlife, farm equipment or the cattle moving along the road.

Take your time and be safe – if you wanted to get somewhere fast you would have taken the highway, right?

If you are lucky enough to happen upon a scene like this, you perhaps will see one of the cowhands pull out their smartphone and text or make a call. Not everything is old-fashioned here.

A funny thing happened at a California cattle drive…

If you do come across a cattle drive, the cowboys will usually direct you on the proper course. Usually, if the drive is moving contrary to your direction, the cattle will part and move around you. If you come upon a drive from the rear, the usual move is to slowly drive through.

I did once see a driver in a little sports car with the top down move properly though a group of cattle. The poor guy had second thoughts since he was so low to the road and the – ahem – rear ends of the cows were moving right by him. I could see the panic start to form in his eyes as he thought of all the horrors that might occur, such as one of the cows jumping into the back seat.

All was well, however, and he and the cattle moved on their respective ways.

Whether or not you get to see an honest-to-goodness cattle drive, you will see plenty of cattle grazing. From the inland areas to the coast, cattle seem to be the most efficient means of harvesting the grass that grows here abundantly.

Cattle grazing along Highway 1 between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo

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