End of the Cattle Empire

“In 1862 the Federal Homestead Law was passed; in 1874 the first piece of barbed wire was sold in the United States. These two facts combined to break the even tenor of the cattleman’s way. …

“The story of the effects of barbed wire on human life in the Great Plains is one that has not been and cannot be adequately told. Its effect on the cattleman has been partly told. The advent of barbed wire was an important factor in the decline of the cattle kingdom. It brought about the disappearance of the open, free range and converted the range country into the big-pasture country. It sounded the death knell of the native longhorn and made possible the introduction of blooded stock. With barbed-wire fences the ranchman could isolate his cattle and, through segregation, could introduce blooded stock. Barbed wire put an end to the long drive, made the cattle trail a “crooked lane,” and the cattleman to patronize the railroads whether he would or not. Barbed wire has made stock-farming rather than ranching the dominant occupation on the Great Plains.”