1820-1865: Origins in Texas
Ranching first started in Texas, with ranches mostly manned by Mexican cowboys called vaqueros.
In 1836 Texan ranchers drove many Mexicans out, and claimed the cattle left behind.
The Civil War started in 1861, and Texans went off to fight. The cattle roamed free as huge herds grew up. On returning home, the Texans started rounding them up and driving them to sell in places such as New Orleans and California.
1865-1870: The 'long drives' - first 'open range' ranch
Realising that there was a great demand for beef in the north of the USA, the Texans drove their cattle north on a long drive to Sedalia in Missouri, where they were loaded onto trains for Chicago.
Two Texas ranchers, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, pioneered a second trail, to Denver in Colorado, where they sold their cattle to gold miners.
1870-1885: The 'open range'
There were huge areas of 'open range' - unfenced land which was free for anyone to use.
Charles Goodnight is reputed to have invented the crazy quilt (by buying small patches of land here and there over an area, he could effectively control all of it).
Refrigeration cars on trains opened a world-wide market for beef.
By 1885, just 35 cattle-barons owned 8 million hectares of range, and owned perhaps 1.5 million cattle.
1885-1890: The end of the 'open range'
Ranchers had over-grazed the plains. Overstocking had also led to a fall in prices.
In spring 1886 there was a drought, followed by a scorching hot summer (up to 43°C). This was followed by a winter storm in January 1887, in which the temperature dropped to -43°C. Half the cattle on the plains died in a single year.
More and more homesteaders were coming onto the plains, and fencing off their farms with barbed wire (patented in 1874).
Five ways the railroads affect the development of cattle ranching include:
1. In 1865-1870 beef was transported north on the railroad from Sedalia, causing the opening up of