A longstanding assumption posits that white ranchers from the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, provided the knowledge to establish the first cattle ranches in Louisiana in the mid-eighteenth century, that blacks merely provided the labor, and that the herding ecology involved was the same as that of the Acadian ranchers who followed. Reconstruction of the locations of the first major ranches and the backgrounds of their owners and slaves, however, reveals that none of them came to Louisiana from Saint-Domingue and that the ranches occupied the western margin of the Atchafalaya basin, an environment quite different than the prairies of southwestern Louisiana later inhabited by Acadian ranchers. While the sources cannot yield a complete account of the process through which cattle ranching became established, they do suggest that none of the white ranchers brought relevant experience from the Caribbean or France, that some of the blacks might have brought such experience from Africa, and that people of African, European, native, and mixed origins all contributed knowledge and creativity, as well as labor, in founding a distinctive herding ecology that differed substantially from that of the subsequent Acadian ranches.

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