Category Archives: Florida Crackers

Florida Cowboys: Keepers of The Last Frontier

A short video on my heritage and the culture that inspired me to make cow whips in the first place.

Long live the Florida Cracker!

RK Cow Whip on TV this week!

Check your listings, find the Respect Outdoors show on The Sportsman Channel, and set your DVR. This week you can catch a glimpse of the 12ft cow whip that I made for Robert Arrington, host of the Respect Outdoors show! From what Robert has told me, this may not be the only time the whip is on the show. If you get a chance, check it out!


Florida Cracker Horses

A short video on Florida’s history and horses:

Roy’s Whip and Tribute

The whip in the photos doesn’t look like much, but it is one that I am very proud to have in my collection. Why? Because it was made by my great-grandfather, L.R. “Roy” Bronson. The whip is crude; there is no plaiting, nothing fancy. Most collectors would think it was a piece of rubbish.  It’s made from some leather straps, a wooden dowel, some tacks, and a bit of buckskin. According to my grandmother (his daughter), he used it mainly to control his dogs and around the cow pens.

Lest you get the impression that this is simply the work of some poor old cow-poke who couldn’t afford to buy a real cow whip, you should know that Roy Bronson was actually a very wealthy man. His surname is well known and respected among those in the Florida cattle industry.  In his lifetime, he owned thousands of acres of land and tens of thousands of cattle.

You see, the thing about my great-grandfather was that he was a crafty old fellow; he didn’t become wealthy by being frivolous with his money. If he needed something, he usually made it himself.  Long before people ever thought of digital clocks or putting them in car stereos, Roy had mounted homemade gadgets in all of his vehicles that would hold a pocket watch, so he could tell what time it was as he drove down the road or around his ranch.

You never had to look far to find something he had created in his workshop. When I was a child, most of his farm equipment was already decades old, but all well maintained; most of it is still in operation to this day. As a ranch owner, he was demanding; a perfectionist from what I’ve heard. Yet, many of the men who worked for him held him in high esteem.

Roy Bronson was a true Florida Cracker. A real “cowman;” since childhood really. I remember him talking about how that his father weaned him from his mother by taking him away to go “cow hunting.” Perhaps not even 3 years old and his father was already teaching him to ride and work cattle in the humid, mosquito infested scrubs and swamps of old Florida.

Even in Roy’s waning years, he could vividly recall how on that first cow hunt, he was amazed by the way the horses’ hooves splashed water in the air as they rode through a slough in search of wild scrub cattle.

I was living on his ranch, in his house, when I first started to make Florida cow whips. One morning in the Fall of 1991, grandpa finished his breakfast and stood up to go back to his room. As he did, he dropped his walking cane. Being close by, I picked up the cane and handed it to him. He thanked me and I responded with a simple “your welcome grandpa.” That would be the last time I spoke to him; the last time anyone spoke to him. He died later that morning.

Though he died only a short time after I started plaiting, I will always be grateful to God that Grandpa Bronson lived long enough for me to know him well and to be able to show him that I had learned to make cow whips.

His death was an end of an era in the family; I always sensed that it would be. Indeed, things were never the same. There was the usual sadness at first, then years of senseless litigation. Some of the heirs ended up with land, others got money. In the end, nobody really won. A couple of things I ended up with are some great memories of the old man and this old whip.  And I wouldn’t trade those things for all the money, land, and cattle Roy Bronson ever had…

(A special thanks goes out to my grandma, Ruth, for giving me this whip!)

Florida, First in America: Cattle, Horses, and Cowboys

This video will give you just a tiny taste of why I am so proud of my Florida Cracker heritage:

The bottom line:

The Florida cow whip isn’t some new fangled whip that we just came up with in the past few decades, it has a rich hertiage that goes back almost 500 years…

George Altman

Here’s a video about Florida whipmaker George Altman.

Thanks goes to Ron Allen for sending me this video.  Now I know, at least according to Altman, that until I start making buckskin cow whips, I’m not really a whipmaker! LOL!

I have 2 Altman nylon cow whips that were sent to me by a fellow in Texas who wants me to sell them for him. He is asking $50.00 per whip. Contact me if you’re interested in purchasing one of them. Here’s a photo of one of the whips so you can see what they look like:

Whips and Whipmakers in the Florida Archives

While looking for some information on leather and buckskin cow whips, I came across lots of photos of whips and whipmakers in the Florida Archives. One the pages I viewed, there were pictures of buckskin cow whips and the whipmaking legends George “Junior” Mills and Curley Dekle.  Enjoy!

Cow Whips: Florida and Beyond


Tan and White Cow Whip

When the average American thinks about a whip, he will probably think of the famed American bullwhip that has been popularized by Hollywood for decades.  According to author George H. Dacy, Florida has a rich cattle ranching heritage with roots that can be traced back over 450 years. The Spanish brought cattle (and probably some whips as well) to Florida long before there was an American “Wild West.”

If you were to conduct an informal survey of modern Florida cowmen, you would probably find that virtually all cattlemen employ a whip that is quite a bit different than the bullwhip made famous by Hollywood. It’s the Cow Whip that rules the ranches of the Sunshine State. 

Older cow whips were made from buckskin, normally plaited from the tanned hides of the whitetail deer that the cattlemen hunted for food. Since the 1970s, the material of choice for “Florida Crackers” and whipmakers alike has been nylon. Nylon was resistant to the, bugs, humid climate, and swampy conditions that a cowboy often contended with while working the herds. That being the case, this material grew in popularity and has made the buckskin cow whip a rare item indeed. How durable is nylon? Just a couple weeks ago I put a new tail in a whip that has been in use since nylon first came on the scene in the 1970s!

Though the Florida Cow Whip was not well known outside of Florida for many decades, the internet has now made it possible for whipmakers such as myself to export the Florida cow whip to nearly every continent. From Australia to the Arctic Circle, the powerful crack of the Florida cow whip has now been heard!

For information on purchasing one of these legendary whips, feel free to visit or email me at Rhettswhips at Yahoo dot com.