History of Ranching in Hawaii and the Paniolos

In 1793 the first cattle was shipped from California to Hawaii. It was a gift from Captain George Vancouver to King Kamehameha I. In order for the cattle to multiply a ten year "kapu" (taboo) was placed on their slaughter.

Richard Cleveland offered horses as a gift to the Hawaiian King in 1803. Seventeen years later the "pipi'ahiu" (wild cattle) were being hunted upcountry since their numbers grew well above expectations. Their tallow and meat became an important local and international trade. Chile became one of the trading partners and soon cattle trade flourished.

King Kamahameha III brought the first Mexican vaqueros to the islands in 1830. They came from Vera Cruz over to the Big Island to handle the cattle. The Hawaiian-ized version of Espaniolo, or Spaniard, became "paniolo" as these cowboys are still known today. One of them, Joaquin Armas, became the "King's Bullock Catcher". In an attempt to say his name, the natives called him "Wokene" or "Huakini Paniolo". He would spend months up in the mountains, on the King's orders, to hunt for a specific number of hides. Later, he was joined by his brother Felipe and they both came to Maui, where they hooked up with Dr. Baldwin in Lahaina. Dr. BaldwinThey were able to lease pastures at the West Maui Mountains at Honokohau and Kahakuloa. Today, close by, a surfspot is still called "slaughterhouse", the name stemming from the brothers holding their "bullocks" there for slaughter after they were caught.

As Joaquin Armas and his brother Felipe would lead the cattle through the streets of Lahaina on the way to the slaughterhouse, it so happened that the cattle would get loose. The story goes, that Dr. Baldwin once had to take a plunge into the canal from the bridge near this mission house to escape the stampede. In 1888 Haleakala Ranch was founded by Henry P. Baldwin and some Oahu businessmen. They were starting what is now the Baldwin's Family multi-generational ranching business on Maui.

To learn more about the history of the "paniolo" in Hawaii there is a video available for purchase at the ranch. It is an outstanding film produced by Hawaii filmmaker Edgy Lee. Its first showing was at the Smithsonian before both houses of Congress.

Cattle Ranching
Images courtesy: Peter Baldwin.
Excerpts from: piiholo.com

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