Cattle Drives

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Cattle Drives

There was a great demand for meat in the northern and eastern parts of the United States after the American Civil War. It’s estimated that at this time there were over 5 million Longhorns in Texas. The cowboy’s job was to take part in cattle drives where the cattle were driven from Texas to the railroad cow towns of Ellsworth, Abilene, Dodge City, Wichita and Newton. The cattle business eventually spread to Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.

Approximately 10 million cattle were taken to the railroad cow towns between 1866 – 1895. The main routes from Texas to Kansas was the Chisolm Trail and the Goodnight Trail. These two trials were over a thousand miles long and took between 12 and 16 weeks to reach the destination.

Several thousand cattle were gathered and they would head out, the cattle traveling two or three abreast. The trial boss would ride ahead of the column to scout for water, grass and a place to camp during the night. The cowboys would ride alongside the herd to keep them in line and keep them from wandering away. Riding at the back of the herd was called riding drag. It was a dusty job and most dreaded by the drover.