- Great Western Cattle Trail
The Great Western Cattle Trail was used in the 19th century for movement of cattle to markets in the East. It ran west of and roughly parallel to the Chisholm Trail. The Great Western Trail began at Bandera west of San Antonio and passed near Buffalo Gap and Abilene in West Texas. It concluded at Dodge City, Kansas.
The trail was also known as the Western Trail, the Dodge City Trail, or the Old Texas Trail.
The Great Western Trail in Oklahoma
The trail crossed Oklahoma from the southern border with Texas to the northern border with Kansas. Today, U.S. Highway 183 generally follows the path of the Great Western Trail taken by cattle drovers that passed through the Wichita Mountains and continued north through Clinton, Woodward and Buffalo, terminating at Kansas railheads. Driving Highway 183, one will encounter several sites relating to the area's cowboy and western heritage including Lazy S Guest Ranch and the Pioneer Heritage Townsite in Frederick, Jumper's Custom Saddlery in Hobart, and the Selman Guest Ranch in Buffalo.
In Texas, feeder trails from the Rio Grande led to the trailhead near Bandera and the Great Western passed through Kerrville, Junction, Brady, Coleman, Baird, Albany, and Fort Griffin. It is believed that the main streets of Throckmorton, Seymour, and Vernon run north and south because of the trail. Also feeder trails came down from the north including such states as Montana and Wyoming. These trails all ended in the cowtown of Dodge City, the cattle capital of the world at this time.http://www.greatwesterncattletrail.com/along_gwct_a/along_gwct.html
These particular drives were made up of cowboys which consisted of a boss, who may or may not have been the owner of the cattle. Drives of 2,500 to 3,000 head of cattle called for a posse of cowboys generally tallying about 10 to 15 men, also a horse wrangler was needed on the drives. His main job was to herd the cow horses. The last man on the trip, many consider the most important was the cook, whose main duties were to drive the chuck wagon and to make sure the men were fed well.http://www.redrivervalleymuseum.org/gwt.html
The peak years for the Great Western Trail were 1874-1886, spanning over 2,000 miles of country and moving over five million cattle and one million horses. During the peak season of the drives if a river filled too high, it could cause delays in the crossing causing tens of thousands of cattle being bottled up in one area. This would create major headaches for wranglers. Wranglers in this era could buy cattle in their home states for as little as 8-10 dolaars a head, then could drive the cattle the 2,000 miles to Dodge City and sell their stock for as much as 20-25 dollars a steer, http://www.jcs-group.com/oldwest/cowboy/long3.htmlr.
Today you can still travel along the U.S. Highway 183 and visit the trail markers along the way set up in 8-10 mile intervals. The historical trail was started in July, 2003, and now stretches the entire trail. Today you can travel the trail on horse back or wagon much like in the movie "City Slickers" and get a first-hand experience of the Old West.
- Kansas History: The Great Western Cattle Trail
- Rebelcherokee: The Great Western Cattle Trail
- The book The Log of a Cowboy by Andy Adams (text available at Project Gutenburg) gives a detailed but fictional account of a cattle drive along the Great Western Cattle Trail.
- Maps of the trail
- Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Great Western Trail
- Great Western Trail article including photos and video on TravelOK.com Official travel and tourism website for the State of Oklahoma
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