History

Study Notes

The End of the Open Range

Level:
GCSE
Board:
Edexcel

Throughout the 1870’s ranching was seen as an easy way to make money and the open range flourished. However, by the end of the 1880’s the open range had ended. There are three main factors for this:

Throughout the 1870’s ranching was seen as an easy way to make money and the open range flourished. However, by the end of the 1880’s the open range had ended. There are three main factors for this:

 

Overstocking

Beef was in huge demand in the 1870’s and early 1880’s and, as cattle prices rose, ranchers began to rear more and more cattle on the open range. This meant the grass on the open range became overstocked.  Overstocked is when too many animals are living on one area of grass. All the grass gets eaten up too quickly, the soil erodes and animals begin to starve.  Furthermore, a drought in 1883 made the remaining grass wither. This meant there was not enough grass for all the cattle and the cattle began to lose weight.

 

Fall in demand

At the same time, demand for beef was decreasing in the east. There was so much beef available that shops had to reduce the prices of it for it to sell. This meant cattle ranching was becoming less profitable.

 

The Great Die Up

The final blow to the open range was the winter of 1886-87. It became known as the Great Die Up. It was an incredibly harsh winter with temperatures dropping to -55 degrees. Deep snow prevented the cattle from reaching the grass and around15% of open range herds died. Any cattle that did survive the winter was in a terrible condition. Ranchers tried to sell any remaining cattle they had and this made prices drop further. This marked the end of the open range. 

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