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Cattle on Ambergris Caye

Okay, you have heard several stories about there being no meat on the Island of Ambergris Caye and in San Pedro. However, with a little bit more research, I have learned that there was a period of about 30 to 40 years when there was cattle on Ambergris Caye. These cattle were part of a herd started by Don Julio Tolosa just before 1900. He found a nice track of bountiful grass on northern Ambergris Caye and fenced it with barbed wire for a cattle ranch. These cows were sold mostly in bulk in the mainland, but occasionally they were butchered and processed for local consumption. After Don Julio Tolosa died, the cattle gradually increased and became wild, yes wild! Papa Blake, the owner of the entire Island of Ambergris Caye, of course, also owned the land at Basil Jones and tried hard to preserve the herd by only killing a few each year. However the people right across our border, our friends in Xcalak, Mexico discovered these animals and helped themselves very generously, so much that the cattle population dwindled to a mere few dozens.

The hurricane of 1931 devastated Belize, especially northern Belize and Ambergris Caye. This diminished greatly the wild cattle even some more. Then the Hurricane of 1942 finished off with the few remaining cows on the island, and after that people did not see any beef in San Pedro for a long time. For more than 30 years it was fish in the morning, fish at midday and fish in the evening with an occasional treat of sea turtle, manatee, or deer.

In the past Sanpedranos used to go up north to Basil Jones past Rocky Point for various reasons- to cut bush posts, to cut palmetto leaves for thatch houses, for “taciste” or palmetto posts for houses, or to hunt for deer, and wild pigs (peccary, genus: Tayassu). On these trips we used to observe barbed wires on the ground, but we had no idea that this was part of a cattle project on the island twenty five years ago, well 90 years ago, when there was cattle on the island.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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