Excerpts from MARVELS OF THE NEW WEST by William M. Thayer.


A complete explanation of the stock-raising business
and how to undertake it, including
the story of one cow's family:

Stock-raising in the West...What cattle eat...Cattle ranch...
Stockmen...the Cowboy... the Hazards of Stock-Raising... and the Sheep Ranch.

THE paradise of stock-raisers lies between the Missouri River and the Pacific coast. The New West is the kingdom of "cattle-kings." They live royally in this empire of prairie and valley. They spread a table for both Americans and Englishmen. Ubiquitous Yankees exchange courtesies with Brother Jonathan under the shadow of the snow-capped Rockies. All the cattle of the New West, gathered into one imposing "round up," would convert the "Great American Desert" into a stockyard, to challenge the curiosity of the world.

     The statistician of the Department of Agriculture at Washington reports the whole number of farm animals in the United States, February, 1887, as follows:--

Horses..................12,496,744 | Sheep.......... 44,759,314
Mules................... 2,117,141 | Swine.......... 44,612,896
Milch Cows..............14,522,083 |                ___________
Oxen and other cattle...33,511,750 | Total..........152,019,928

     The following table shows what number of the sum total are found in the New West:--

|          |          |        |             |   OXEN AND    |           |          |
|Kansas    |  593,358 | 83,596 |    609,601  |    1,583,915  |1,106,852  |2,161,419 |
|Nebraska  |  382,389 | 40,358 |     333,839 |     1,048,200 |   439,700 |2,382,168 |
|California|  289,626 | 36,284 |     243,469 |     8,088,040 | 6,069,698 |1,617,322 |
|Oregon    |  167,775 |  3,155 |      75,959 |       643,245 | 2,593,029 |  229,920 |
|Nevada    |   44,654 |  1,657 |      17,683 |       317,059 |   674,486 |   14,593 |
|Colorado  |  123,770 |  8,165 |      57,294 |     1,070,768 | 1,149,178 |   21,290 |
|Arizona   |   10,168 |  1,863 |      15,232 |       243,710 |   627,201 |   13,701 |
|Dakota    |  227,027 | 11,964 |     199,480 |       710,934 |   256,209 |  427,176 |
|Idaho     |   48,750 |  2,436 |      24,498 |       339,453 |   231,413 |   28,110 |
|Montana   |  129,203 |  9,229 |      29,095 |       812,784 |   754,688 |   20,263 |
|New Mexico|   20,786 | 10,912 |      18,829 |     1,220,968 | 4,025,742 |   20,990 |
|Utah      |   56,136 |  3,579 |      44,544 |       219,842 |   658,285 |   28,656 |
|Washington|   94,237 |  1,231 |      62,403 |       300,676 |   555,439 |   90,152 |
|Wyoming   |   82,500 |  2,850 |       6,358 |     1,255,298 |   534,020 |    2,750 |
|Totals    |2,270,379 |217,279 |   1,738,284 |    17,844,892 |19,675,940 |6,458,510 |

     More than half the oxen and other cattle of the United States are in the New West, and nearly half of the sheep. The whole number of farm animals in the New West, at the present time, is 48,205,284, nearly one-third of the entire number in the United States. Add the animals in all the States west of the Mississippi, and the aggregate is about seventy-four millions, or nearly one-half the number in the whole country. The "oxen and other cattle" west of the Mississippi number about twenty-eight millions, which is more than five times the number east of the Mississippi. Adding sheep in the same way, and they number about twenty-seven million, which is ten million more than are found east of the Mississippi.

     The same authority at Washington reports the available pasturage of all grades of quality, still in possession of the government, after examination of the entire area, and consultation with stock-growers and others, as follows:--

                   Acres.   |                     Acres.
Dakota.......... 75,000,000 | Idaho............ 35,500,000
Nebraska........ 47,000,000 | Washington....... 25,300,000
Kansas.......... 50,000,000 | Oregon........... 45,000,000
New Mexico...... 63,374,400 | California....... 69,850,000
Utah............ 32,500,000 | Nevada........... 38,299,789
Colorado........ 45,440,000 | Arizona.......... 40,000,000
Wyoming......... 50,000,000 |                  -----------
Montana......... 68,500,000 | Total............685,733,789

     Much of the so-called grazing land is annually converted into arable land; so that the acreage of the former is constantly diminishing, while that of the latter is increasing

     The foregoing statistics become more significant when we consider that only four of the fourteen States and Territories mentioned had any stock to report in 1850. Savages and herds of buffalo roamed over this vast domain, but stock-raisers were unknown there. Ten years later, in 1860, there were still five Territories having nothing of the kind to report. Even Colorado had but just begun to live, with no stock-raising to record. The same was true of Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. As late as 1870, Colorado reported only 6,446 horses, 1,173 mules, 25,017milch cows, 5,566 working oxen, and 40,153 other cattle--a total of 78,355. Of sheep, the Territory could boast of only 120,928, and of swine, 5,509. The value of all this live stock was only $2,871,102--less than three million dollars! The growth of this industry in Colorado, in sixteen years, is marvellous indeed. From two hundred thousand animals to more than three million! From less than three million dollars in value to sixty million!

     In 1870, Montana had but 5,289 horses, 475 mules, 12,432 milch cows, 1,761 working oxen, and 22,545 other cattle--a total of only 42,502--with 2,024 sheep and 2,599 swine. The whole value of this live stock was less than two million dollars. In sixteen years advancing from forty-eight thousand animals to one million two hundred thousand --twenty-five times as many in sixteen years. From a value of less than two million dollars to nearly forty million dollars.

     The growth of this industry in other parts of the New West is equally marked, but our limited space forbids further particulars. I may add, however, that as the States and Territories grow older, the grazing lands diminish and the farming lands increase. Only a few years ago, Kansas was an immense grazing section; but now its lands are surveyed and fenced farms. Agriculture crowds out stock-raising. Within a few years the same will be true of Nebraska and Colorado; and, finally, the whole New West will succumb to this process of bringing the land under cultivation. Not that stock-raising will be supplanted; but improved breeds of cattle will be raised on fenced farms, where they can range over but a limited area, and where they will be stalled and fed in winter after the manner of the East.

     Governor Crittenden, of Missouri, addressed the first National Convention of Cattlemen in St. Louis, Nov. 17, 1884, and in his address, he facetiously remarked:--

     "No history, aside from the Bible, gives an authentic account of the origin of cattle. Two and two they went into the ark with man, and from that time to this they have been the objects of trade, commanding at all times, from the day when Jacob outwitted his father-in-law, Laban, to this convention, the shrewdest and most refined intellects. Caesar, in his Commentaries, states that the British in his time had great numbers of cattle, though of no special size or beauty; and those wild islanders were kept quite busy in keeping their cattle out of the way of the Roman eagles, showing that even then men and soldiers were no better than now--in 'handling stock.' The magnitude of the cattle trade in this country forms a subject of profound interest, not only to our own people, but also to those beyond the dividing seas. The immense herds, scattered from Maine to California, are the offspring of a single bull and one or more cows, imported into this country in 1493 by Christopher Columbus a few days before a custom house had been established upon our soil and officers appointed to vex travellers by inquisitive questions. They came in on the free list as raw material, and some acquisitive Mexicans, American Indians, and negroes still think they are on the free list--only convinced to the contrary by 'a short shrift and a long rope' in the hands of some travelling judges who still believe in that old, solemn law of mine and thine."

     The magnitude of the cattle business, as expressed by the foregoing figures and remarks, was illustrated by Hon. Norman J. Coleman, United States Commissioner of Agriculture, at the National Cattle-Growers' Association in Chicago. He said:--

     "If a solid column should be formed, twelve animals deep, one end resting at New York City, its centre encircling San Francisco, and its other arm reaching back to Boston, such a column would contain about the number which now forms the basis, the capital stock, so to speak, of the cattle industry of the United States."

     Mr. Carnegie says: "Were the live stock upon Uncle Sam's estate ranged five abreast, each animal estimated to occupy a space five feet long, and marched round the world, the head and tail of the procession would overlap. This was the host of 1880; that of 1885 would be ever so much greater, and still it grows day by day, and the end of the growth no man can foretell."

     On the average, if the live stock of our country were equally distributed, each family would have a horse, cow, four pigs, and three sheep. It is claimed that the amount of capital invested in cows exceeds by $40,000,000 the amount invested in bank stocks! The cattle, horses, sheep, and swine of the whole country represent a capital of two billion five hundred million dollars ($2,500,000,000).


     Throughout a very large portion of the New West cattle graze through the whole year, requiring little more attention than herds of buffalo. Without cut-feed or shelter they shirk for themselves, and appear in the spring "round up," in a good condition, unless an exceptional cold and stormy winter has prevailed. The cut on the following page represents the two principal kinds of grass upon which cattle live and thrive between Missouri River and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

     These grasses may be called perennial; for, springing up in the early season when their roots are bathed in moisture, they cover the great plains with an olive-green, which the excessive heat of a rainless summer dries and cures as it stands, from six to twelve inches high. The drying and curing process preserves the juices of the grass, and when it goes to seed, by a remarkable provision of Providence the seed does not drop and waste, but it is held tightly to nourish the animal kingdom so dependent upon it. All the nutriment is thus preserved; and this accounts for the excellent condition of cattle that appear to relish these grasses full as much when they are dry as when they are green. It is said that horses will leave the fresher and greener grass of the watercourse for this dried and cured hay, which appears innutritious and worthless to the traveller. The buffalo grass grows in bunches, as seen in the illustration, and both kinds stand up so stiffly that they are never broken down by the heaviest wind, rain, or snow.

     In the winter the tops of the grass, containing the most nutritious part, --the seeds, --peer above the snow for the particular accommodation of cattle. Or if, perchance, the snow is unusually deep, and covers them, the cattle accommodate themselves readily to the situation, and with nose lay them bare and devour them. Snow does not remain long upon the ground in the grazing country, so that if these grasses were completely buried in snow, ordinarily cattle would not starve in waiting for its disappearance. In many localities, too, they find sufficient feed on hillsides and other protected spots to satisfy hunger while other localities remain buried in snow. The cut on the next page represents a collection of Kansas grasses.

     A traveller in Montana furnishes the following interesting remarks respecting this remarkable bunch-grass:--

Buffalo Grass and Grama Grass     "At first I supposed that the color was derived from the nature of the soil, but I afterwards found out, by actually travelling over them, that they were covered with a species of grass which, as it is approached, has the appearance of ripe grain which has stood long enough to lose its bright yellow color. This is the famous bunch-grass of Montana and Dakota. It does not cover the ground like the cultivated grasses of the East, or the blue grass of Kentucky and adjoining States, but grows in scattered bunches, so that, although, seen from a little distance, the ground appears to be entirely covered with it, it actually stands very thinly over the surface. This bunchgrass comes up in the spring and gets its growth during the rains of early summer. Then, when the dry season begins, the seed which it bears upon the top ripens, but instead of falling out, as the seeds of most grasses would do, is firmly held in the head which encloses it, and remains upon the stalk until the following spring. The stalk itself is strong and wiry, containing an abundance of silica, and is not easily broken.

Kansas Grasses.     "When the cattle are turned out upon a range covered with bunch-grass, they browse off the heads containing the seeds, but do not eat the leaves and stalk, which are as destitute of nutrition as the stalks of rye, barley, or wheat would be. But the seeds seem to have concentrated in them all the elements fitted to furnish food for cattle which the grass, during its short period of growth, has been able to draw from the remarkably rich soil, and their fattening qualities are said to be equal to those of the best grain. It is because the cattle feed upon these seeds, rather than upon the leaves and stalks of grass, that Montana beef is of so much better quality than that raised in the Territories further south."


     The first thing for the would-be stock-raiser to do is to secure a ranch. In Colorado he would do this by buying out a stockman who wants to sell, because all the government lands in that State are taken up. In New Mexico he would probably purchase government land, always selecting it where cattle can find plenty of water.

     The following illustrations of homes on cattle ranches are the actual representations of homes that now exist.

Home on a Cattle Ranch.

     The above illustration represents a house built of stone, and belongs to the best class of ranchmen's homes. It contains two large rooms and a loft, accommodations that are found upon few ranches only. The cut on the following page represents a log house by no means of the best class, and yet about the average dwelling of rancheros, as herders are called in Mexico. Few women are found on ranches, the necessary isolation and hardships being too masculine for feminine tastes. Occasionally, however, the married ranchman shares the privations of ranch life with his wife.

Home on a Cattle Ranch.

     Cowboys sometimes occupy dug-outs. A ranchman describes his as follows:--

     "It was now necessary to build some kind of a house, as the shanties we had hitherto used would afford but poor protection against the keen blasts of winter. The choice lay between a log-house and a dug-out; and as it would be difficult to get straight logs enough for the former, and it would take longer to build, and the weather was already getting cold enough to make living out of doors not very enjoyable, we decided to make a dug-out. A dug-out is constructed by digging into a hill, which forms the back and sides of the dwelling. The front is made of logs, and the roof of sticks, on which grass or hay is laid, covered by a thick layer of earth. A fireplace and flue are dug out at one side, and a chimney is carried above the roof by means of some stones or sticks plastered with mud. It is a primitive kind of house. Ours was not at all uncomfortable, and with a blazing log fire on the hearth, we knew little what the weather was like outside."

A Dugout.

     If he buys his land of the United States government, he finds an office near at hand, where maps and charts convince him that the method of coming into possession of what he wants is very plain and systematic.

Diagram 1.     The United States government surveys the public lands into a succession of lines of townships running north and south, parallel to each other, and each line of townships is numbered from the base line northward, the two in Diagram 1 being numbered, for example, 138 and 139 North, respectively.

     Each of these lines of townships is called a "range," which number from the meridian east or west. This range, for example, is called Range 79 West.

     Diagram 1 shows two townships, numbered 138 and 139 North, respectively, in Range No. 79 West. The parallel line of townships west of Range 79 West would be numbered 138 and 139 North, respectively, in Range 80 West, and so on.

Diagram 2.     Each township contains 36 sections, numbered as in Diagram 1, or 23,040 acres. Each section as shown in Diagram 2 (divided into 40-acre tracts), is one mile square, and contains 640 acres. Each section is divided into quarters, containing 160 acres each. Each quarter section contains 40 acres.

     In describing lands, for example, the northeast 40-acre tract in Diagram 2, in section No. 1, in township No. 139 N., in range No. 79 W., would be described as follows: N.E. 1/4 of the N.E. 1/4 of Section 1, T. 139 N., R. 79 W.

     The price of government land is $1.25 per acre, though millions of acres which lie in sections alternate with railroad lands are held at $2.50. The stockman usually buys the cheaper lands, unless he "pre-empts" one hundred and sixty acres, or acquires a title to his claim under the Homestead Law by living on it five years.

Herd on the Range.     Cattle are not confined to the section or quarter-section, but roam at pleasure over the range from November to May, when the roundup begins. A Colorado stockman informed me a few years since, that, at the previous round-up, some of his cattle were found one hundred and fifty miles east of his ranch, one hundred miles west and south. Different herds mingle on the range, of course, making the annual round-up a necessity, that each stockman may find and possess his own. The round-up will be described hereafter.

Continue to "Stockmen" . . . .

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