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The Western Trail: The Greatest Cattle Trail of Them All at 150

The Western Trail: The Greatest Cattle Trail of Them All at 150

September 13, 2024 - January 5, 2025

In March 1874, cattleman and drover John T. Lytle drove a herd of 3,500 Texas cattle from Medina County,
Texas, to Red Cloud Agency (now Fort Robinson), Nebraska, on a new cattle trail he blazed across four states.
Called the Western Trail, this trail superseded the Chisholm Trail system and lasted longer, carried more cattle,
and covered a greater distance than any other cattle trail. The trail from Texas, across Kansas and on to Ogallala
lasted from 1874-1884. The trail extension or detour around Kansas through Colorado and on to Wyoming,
Montana and Canada was from 1885 to 1897. The trail traversed nine states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas,
Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana, and entered western Canada and
included northern Mexico, and was thus, international. An estimated six million cattle were trailed over the Western
Cattle Trail system, more than all the other trail systems combined. The Western gave rise to famous sites such
as Doan’s Crossing, Dodge City, Ogallala, Belle Fourche, Miles City, and Fort MacLeod. Most of the Western Trail cattle
were stocker cattle used to create today-historic ranches on the northern Great Plains. Many cattle on the Western
Trail were trailed north to supply beef to reservations on the northern Great Plains. The Red River War of 1874-75 on the
Southern Plains helped open the Western to relatively conflict free drives.

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