The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950

Consttittios of early aid ioder
America Stack rowers 'Associations
WILLIAM DUSENBERRY
THE manner in which modern American stock growers'
associations are regulated is deeply rooted in the past.
The immediate antecedent of such organizations existed
in Spanish California. In sixteenth-century New Spain a similar
association known as the Mesta thrived and grew. But the parent
of this institution, bearing the same name, originated much
earlier in Spain. In 1273 the Spanish government established the
Mesta on a nation-wide basis.' The majority of its members were
sheep owners.
The most salient characteristic of sheep raising in Spain was
the semiannual migration of the flocks in quest of green pastures.
Every April, sheep were driven to the mountainous region of
northern Spain for pasturage during the summer; in October
they returned to the plains toward the south for the winter. The
sheep walks were delimited, and royal toll gates were to be found
here and there along each one of them. Sheep owners had to pay
toll in proportion to the number of sheep each possessed. The
Mesta had jurisdiction over this migratory pastoral scheme. It
also laid claim to stray animals, enforced regulations pertaining
to brands, and worked generally to foster this important industry.2
Regardless of time or place, stock growers' associations have
had many things in common. Take, for example, the powers and
functions of judiciary officials in these organizations. The duties
of "cattle judges" of recent decades are fairly obvious. Their im-
mediate antecedents were the "judges of the plain" (jueces del
campo) of Spanish California, who were obliged to be present
at all annual rodeos. Here all livestock in the district was
branded. Here the jueces settled disputes concerning the owner-
1Julius Klein, The Mesta, A Study in Spanish Economic History (Cambridge,
xg92o), 12. Klein's work on this subject has been accepted as standard by scholars
in the field of Latin American History.
2Klein fully covers the details concerning the functions of the Spanish Mesta.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101126/. Accessed December 25, 2014.