African American Man Wrestling an Alligator at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm


One of the symbols of the state of Florida in the popular imagination is the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). From the earliest European explorers to the present day, visitors have been fascinated by this cold-blooded freshwater reptile. With a name derived from the Spanish word lagarto (the lizard), alligators can grow to an average of 13–15 feet (4–4.6 meters) and weigh 500–1,000 pounds (227–453 kilograms). The alligator used to be prized for its meat and skin, was once hunted and harvested to near extinction, and was listed as an endangered species from 1967 to 1987. However, the alligator has thrived in recent years, although its natural habitat has not. “Gators” are part of Florida’s popular culture, from tourist attractions and alligator wrestlers to postcards and team mascots. One of Florida’s earliest themed tourist attractions, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, opened for business in 1893. At the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and other tourist attractions such as Gatorland and the Silver Springs Nature Park, “taming” or hypnotizing alligators was a popular trick, along with other performances such as alligator wrestling, as shown in this undated photograph.

Last updated: October 22, 2014