Cattle Drives in the West 1860–90


Map Code: Ax02210

Cattle drives had flourished since the Civil War by moving surplus stock produced in the Texas breeding grounds to the maturing/fattening grounds of the northern prairies. Their routes spawned boisterous cattle towns where cowboys let off steam and lawmen like Wyatt Earp plied their trade. The famous Chisholm Trail was named for the half-Cherokee fur trader who first marked out the route. But, from the outset, there was opposition primarily from farmers along the trails, who feared infection of their own livestock with ‘Texas fever’ and resented their crops being foraged by the vast itinerant herds. The imposition of quarantine regulations (1867) progressively drove the routes westward, to New Mexico (Goodnight-Loving 1867) and Arizona. A National Trail was proposed in 1884, and garnered widespread support until the ferocious winter of 1886–87 wreaked massive destruction on cattle herds and spelled the end for the open range and the cattle drive era.

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