Cowart Ranch Family History

Danny Raymond Cowart's roots as a cattleman can be traced back to the early 1800's to his Great-Great-Grandfather Larkin Cowart, an early cattleman born in Georgia. The family migrated south to Florida, which has the longest history of ranching of any state in the United States. In Seville, Florida, Babe Hiram Cowart raised his son, William Raymond Cowart, Danny's namesake. Wars provided an economic boost for Florida cattlemen, who provisioned armies during the Seminole, Civil, and Spanish American Wars.After the Civil War there were still wild cattle in Florida, as well as attractive markets to the north and south. Trade boomed with Cuba, Key West, and Nassau, and Florida became the nation's leading cattle exporter.

Danny's Grandfather Raymond operated on the open range running cattle from Florida's St. Johns River at Astor to Ormond Beach up to Lake George over to Haw Creek, and carried on the Cowart family tradition using the Larkin's "LC" brand. In order to care for cattle on the open range, Raymond and his children Emory, Major, Odis, Hazel and Herbert would be gone for weeks at a time. In the early 1900's, Raymond and his family built a butcher house and began selling fresh meat throughout Northern Florida.

As Danny's father, Odis Cowart, began to strike out on his own, he traveled to Sumter County to buy horses, having heard the horses there were top quality. During this trip, Odis met Eudora Beville who he later married. Their son, Danny was born in 1938 in Center Hill, Florida.  In 1934, Danny's father moved to Sumter County and he and his new mother-in-law, Marie Beville, built a butcher house, which he operated until 1946. After closing the butcher house, Odis transitioned his career to being a rancher and cowboy. 

In 1949, Odis bought his mother-in-law Beville’s productive and fertile Center Hill property. In the 1920’s, Center Hill was the green bean capital of the world, shipping nearly 400 railroad cars of green beans a year.  Odis also raised a herd of pure bred Brahman cows on his property. He showed his Brahman bulls at State Fairs in the mid 1950’s. Brahman is a breed of cattle originating in India that were introduced to the Florida due to their ability to withstand heat and insects. Since the 1930’s, ranchers have successfully cross-bred native cattle with Brahman cattle to improve the quality of their herds. Odis sold his top-notch Brahman herd to the Cuban government. In 1954, Odis founded Shady Brook Ranch with the additional purchase of 250 acres approximately 10 miles northwest of Center Hill. The soil in this area, known as Warm Springs Hammock, is some of the most fertile in Florida. It is composed of clay and lime rock, which is very productive, giving good yields to cabbage, tomatoes, onions, oranges, and grapefruit. A portion of the property is under a long-term lease to Dixie Lime & Stone for lime rock mining used for road and parking lot construction. Ninety percent of the rock used at Disney World came from this property.

Many of the occupational skills of the working cowboy translate into the sports of rodeo and equestrian racing. Odis produced rodeos with his good friend Oscar Clemons, who owned Florida’s largest livestock market in Okeechobee, Florida. Odis not only provided livestock, but also participated in the rodeos, in venues throughout Florida as well as New York City's Madison Square Garden. Odis was nominated three times to the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Good equestrian skills and well-trained horses are essential to successful cattle tending. Odis raced his Quarter Horses and owned the first Quarter Horse raced at Gulfstream Park in Miami.

After Danny's father passed away in 1988, he continued ranching operations at Shady Brook Ranch. Ranch work is a family tradition in the Cowart family and the occupational skills of ranching have been transmitted through the generations. Today, Danny and his children Dina, Ashley, Jake and Jeff continue the family legacy in the cow-calf business and return to the trade of their ancestors by butchering and packaging their own meat.  The Cowart Ranch herd is comprised of Angus cows and Wagyu bulls. Wagyu is a Japanese breed of cattle yielding meat that is known worldwide for its marbling characteristics, enhanced flavor, tenderness and juiciness. The pastures are set up in 20 acres paddocks with two 1,100 gallons water troughs in each paddock. With the use of rotation gazing, the calves are weaned and grazed for six to eight months on lush pastures. The calves are finished on select grasses and legumes and harvested when they are 16 to 18 months old producing American Style Kobe Beef.

Cowart Ranch also grows produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash, and raises free-range pastured chickens and fresh brown eggs, that are sold to local schools and restaurants.