The Cattle Boom started mainly with the Texas longhorn which was the time when Spanish settlers in the 1700s brought their cattle to California and Texas. Later, the cattle were mixed with English breeds and created the Texas longhorn. These types of cattle were very tough and had horns up to five feet across. Settlers preferred to raise them even though they had little meat because they only required little water and could survive in harsh weather. They were well suited for the environment unlike some animals. In the East, the demand for beef increased after the Civil War because of the expanding economy and growing population. This was an economic advantage during the Cattle Boom because it is what helped start it all. Without the expanding economy, cattle would not have been needed as much and it may have not led to the start of the Cattle Boom. In 1867, a businessman named Joseph McCoy came up with an idea to allow buyers to meet at a market so that distance would no longer be a problem for the cattle to travel so far. He built pens for cattle in Abilene, Kansas, in which the cattle could be shipped by the Kansas Pacific Railroad line to other places. Many Texas ranchers were soon making trips north to sell their herds. Cattle ranching also began expanding onto the Great Plains at this time. Ranchers built many ranches in the region that stretched from Texas north to Canada since their cattle were doing so well on the Plains. This area later became known as the Cattle Kindom. Open range land was used by ranchers who grazed their huge herds throughout the area. This was the start of the Cattle Boom.
Key People and Concepts
Some key people and concepts in the West during the time of the Cattle Kingdom were Joseph McCoy, Elizabeth Collins, Charles Goodnight, Nat Love, Jesse Chisholm, vaqueros, open range, range rights, roundup, cattle drive, and range wars. - Joseph McCoy was a businessman who decided "to establish a market whereat the southern rancher and the northern buyer would meet." He also built pens for cattle in the small town of Abilene, Kansas. - Elizabeth Collins was a woman who saw how profitable ranching could be. Elizabeth and her husband stopped the business of mining to start cattle raising due to their troubles mining gold. Then she moved to Teton Valley in Montana and started ranching in which she was so successful that she earned the name Cattle Queen of Montana. - Charles Goodnight was another one of the ranchers who became wealthy during the cattle boom. He started the first ranch in the Texas Panhandle which was more than 250 miles from any town or railroad. - Nat Love was an African American cowboy who wrote an autobiography about his life as a cowboy. - Jesse Chisholm was a Texas cowboy who blazed, or marked, the Chisholm Trail in the late 1860s. - Vaqueros are Mexican cowboys in the West who tended cattle and horses. - An open range is a public land used by ranchers to graze herds. This land was once occupied by the Plains Indians and buffalo herds. - Range rights are rights to water sources on the Great Plains. Ranchers bought these rights to give them exclusive control of both the water and the land around it. - A roundup is the act of driving cattle together and collecting them in a herd. - Cattle drives are long journeys on which cowboys herded cattle to northern markets or grazing lands. - Range wars are battles among large and small ranchers and farmers on the Great Plains for use of the open range.
The Cattle Bust
The bust of the Cattle Kingdom began in the 1880s when ranchers began facing more competition on the open range. Range wars were breaking out between large and small ranchers and farmers. Large ranchers usually won these battles but they couldn't afford to let their cattle roam free on public lands. Cattle ranchers also had some falling outs with sheep owners because in the 1880s, the number of sheep and competition for grasslands grew. The sheep would chew the grass down so far that there would be nothing left for the cattle. But even though they had several threats against them, the sheep ranchers usually did well for themselves in the West. In 1885, the U.S. economy was in a depression causing cattle prices to drop. This was an economic disadvantage during the bust of the Cattle Kingdom because it led to the end of the reign of the Cattle Kingdom. Ranchers, although, tried to improve prices by bringing eastern cattle to the western range. These types of cattle produced more beef than the Texas longhorns but they were not used to the conditions on the Plains. The Cattle Kingdom really started to bust when disaster struck in 1885 and 1886. Much of the prairie grass that was depended on by the the ranchers for feed had been eaten by the huge cattle herds on the Plains. In both years, severe winters made ranching situations even worse. Many cattle died and most ranchers were ruined financially and had lost at least 30 percent, if not more, of their herds. Though cattle ranching continued, it had become much more costly. These low prices, harsh weather, and greater competition for land were the things that brought an end to the Cattle Kingdom.
Lifestyles of Ranchers and Cowboys in the West
Ranchers in the West became very successful in their ranching. They also bought range rights, or water rights, to ponds and rivers since they didn't have very much land. This allowed them to use the scarce water as well as the land around it. Ranchers could now cut out their competition by stopping farmers and other ranchers from using using the water. Ranchers also served as the local authorites since the locations of many ranches were so remote. Ranchers became very important to western life in the 1800s. Cowboys were the workers who took care of ranchers' cattle. Many of their techniques were borrowed from Mexican vaqueros which are ranch hands who cared for cattle and horses. The western saddle, the lariat which is a rope that is used for lassoing cattle, the leather chaps that they wore over their pants to protect themselves from thorny brush, and the broad felt hat that they changed into the more familiar high-peaked cowboy hat, were some of the things that cowboys borrowed from the vaqueros. Cowboys would gather the cattle, or roundup, and brand the calves and horses with a special mark which kept thieves from selling stolen horses and cattle. Many cowboys liked being on the range even though the work was hard, the pay was poor, the weather was bad, the livestock unpredictable, and cattle thieves posed a threat.
The Effects of Railroads in the Cattle Kingdom
The location and development of cattle trails and cattle towns were greatly affected by the railroads. Cattle drives would end at a town near a railroad and the cattle would be shipped to other regions for high profits. Many ranchers began making more cattle drives to sell their cattle as a result. The towns began to grow and prosper due to the cattle business. The towns attracted businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, and their families.