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Texas Cattle Trails

The following is taken from information on various websites on the Texas cattle trails. Thank you to these websites.

Texas ranchers were sending their cattle back east before the Civil War, but the great cattle trails emerged after Gulf Coast ports were blockaded by the Union.

In the 1860s, the great Texas cattle drives started because Texas had an over population of longhorn cattle and the rest of the country wanted beef.

With such a long distance to cover with so many cattle, the cowboys had to perfect the trail routes and the techniques to increase their success.

“The cattle did not follow a clearly defined trail except at river crossings; when dozens of herds were moving north it was necessary to spread them out to find grass. The animals were allowed to graze along for ten or twelve miles a day and never pushed except to reach water; cattle that ate and drank their fill were unlikely to stampede. When conditions were favorable longhorns actually gained weight on the trail. After trailing techniques were perfected, a trail boss, ten cowboys, a cook, and a horse wrangler could trail 2,500 cattle three months for sixty to seventy-five cents a head. This was far cheaper than shipping by rail."

** From the Texas State Historic Association Handbook website on the Chisholm Trail.

“HIDE AND HORN: By the end of the Civil War, Texas hadn’t much left to offer a newly united country…except BEEF! Historians have long debated aspects of the Chisholm Trail’s history, including the exact route and even its name. Although a number of cattle drive routes existed in 19th century America, none have penetrated the heart of popular imagination like the Chisholm Trail, especially in Texas.

As early as the 1840s, Texas cattlemen searched out profitable markets for their longhorns, a hardy breed of livestock descended from Spanish Andalusian cattle brought over by 16th century explorers, missionaries, and ranchers. But options for transporting the cattle were few. The solution lay north, where railroads could carry livestock to meat packing centers and customers throughout the populated east and far west. Enter Joseph G. McCoy from Illinois, who convinced the powers-that-be at the Kansas Pacific Railway company to allow him to build a cattle-shipping terminal in Abilene, Kansas.

The new route cattle drivers used to push the longhorn to Kansas shipping points became known as the Chisholm Trail, named for Jesse Chisholm, a Scot-Cherokee trader who had established the heart of the route while transporting his trade goods to Native American camps, and it eventually inspired the link between the great movement of longhorns from South Texas to central Kansas to the Chisholm name. Before the Chisholm was shut down in the late 1880s (by a combination of fences and a Texas fever quarantine) the trail accommodated more than five million cattle and more than a million wild mustangs, considered the largest human-driven animal migration in history.”

** From the Texas Time Travel website.

NEW BRAUNFELS TEXAS is #25th town on the Chisholm Trail page and the roll that it played during the historic Texas cattle drives up to Kansas.

“Pressing north past San Antonio, longhorns on the Chisholm Trail journeyed toward New Braunfels and Austin on a route that roughly parallels I-35 today. On both the Chisholm Trail and El Camino Real de los Tejas (the Spanish Royal Road) before that, the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels served as an important water stop and river crossing for weary travelers. The best views of the crossing are upstream from the Faust Street Bridge, built in 1887. When drovers began trailing cattle through New Braunfels in the 1860s, the German artisans provided just about anything they would need from reliable wagons to sturdy saddles. The Sophienburg Museum displays the storefronts and blacksmith tools of the cattle trail era.”

** From the Texas Historical Commission on the Chisholm Trail.