The Cattle Kingdom

By Chase Lamm

The Rise of the Cattle Industry

Wild cattle wandered the open range untouched for years. These longhorns were strays lost by Spanish ranchers. They traveled in herds and were ignored by the local ranchers because they would have no use due to the lack of transportation. In the 1860's, these cattle were in high demand, and they were valuable. Ranchers and cowhands started to herd the animals to different rail lines. The perfect time to start a cattle drive was in the spring, and it was serious work. These lasted for two to three months, and as many as 600,000 cattle were moved across America.

Life on the Trail

These cattle drives were not easy, and Andy Adams was one cowhand who experienced these hard tasks. Cowhands had to keep the cattle calm, whether it was dealing with storms, fires, strong currents, and even marauders. Despite all of their hard work, cowhands only earned about a dollar a day, working up to 18 hours a day. Americans learned how to herd cattle effectively from vaqueros, Spanish for cowhand or cowboy. Many traditions were also Hispanic traditions that are still used today.

the wild west

The fantasy of the "Wild West" is based off of towns where cattle drives would end. Joseph McCoy had the idea to start up a town called Abilene, Kansas. This was a popular place because it was where the Chisholm Trail met the Kansas Pacific Railroad. This was known as the first cow town. With this, there were other cities that tried to do the same. This was also a time when people thought the west was something it was not. Everyone was convinced that it was a place of violence and people like William "Buffalo Bill" Cody tried to spread this idea.

boom and bust in the cattle kingdom

The cattle boom lasted from the 1860's to the 1880's in the cattle kingdom, the region dominated by the cattle industry and its ranches, trails, and cow towns. People were making money but then the industry collapsed. Profits were high even after cattle drives and expenses of it. Then, new breeds were introduced and even more money was made. Yet, in the 1880's, so many cattle were roaming around that there wasn't enough money to feed them. Then droughts came and harsh winters killing millions of cattle. Feed became expensive and things were going down hill, then the country moved on and cattle drives and the whole industry crashed.