With all the folklore and legend surrounding cattle ranching, it may seem like it has been around forever, but that is not the case. Truth be told, cattle ranching has been around for a little more than 200 years, establishing itself as a major component of American culture and the subject of much study.
In the early 1800’s, down in Texas, cattle – cows and bison – were free to roam the plains. Texas cowboys found herding to be a relatively easy way for them to round up and direct cattle into the marketplace. At that time, ranches were worked by Mexican “vaqueros”, or cowboys. But in the 1830’s, the Americans who had settled there began to drive out the vaqueros, and took ownership of all the cattle. Then came the Civil War in 1861.
When the Civil War began, cattle were left to roam free as Texans went to war and ranches were left unattended. This caused a huge increase in the cattle population, which, when ranchers came back from war, was difficult to control. It was then that ranchers started to erect fences to pen their cattle and monitor over grazing. This was the beginning of what we know today as modern cattle ranches.
The modern cattle ranch slowly emerged as a full-time, complex operation with many functions and purposes. These days, there are fences and buildings to be mended and cared for, grain to tend, pastures to monitor, seasons to be aware of when calving and feeding, vaccinations and branding—the list goes on and on.
It goes without saying that this is an important business in the US, and the success or failure of cattle ranches makes a mark on our economy. Now that you know a bit about the origins of cattle ranching, consider experiencing one for yourself at Rowse’s 1 + 1 Ranch in Burwell, Nebraska.
Posted by Tammy Rowse