FRUIT COVE, Fla. -

An ancient and hearty breed of cattle may be Florida's next cash cow.

The animals now known as Florida Cracker Cattle are descendants of cattle that arrived in Florida with Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521.

Ranchers say the cattle are experiencing a renaissance lately, mostly because the animals are easy to care for and less expensive to maintain than other breeds of cattle. They thrive on grass instead of feed, are almost immune to parasites and are tolerant of Florida's oppressive summer heat.

Dr. William Broussard, who owns the state's largest Cracker Cattle herd, says the meat from the animals is tasty and low in fat.

Owners of the Cracker Cattle in Florida have their own association and gather each November for an animal auction.