Wyoming's Sheep Industry

By the early 1880s, cattlemen were starting to see more and more sheep being brought into eastern Wyoming. Some accepted them but many, some would say most, fought against the introduction of the sheep. The area from Laramie Peak to Douglas to Lusk became prime sheep range. It would take a few more years and quite a few more battles before sheep men became entrenched in the northern and western parts of Wyoming.

Most of the sheep brought into Wyoming came from the west, Oregon and California. Much different from the Longhorn trail drives from Texas a decade earlier. Some of these sheep trail drives followed the Oregon Trail, only in reverse this time. In the two decades from 1880 to 1900 some two million sheep were brought into the Cowboy State.
Trail Ruts in eastern Wyoming near Guernsey and 14 miles from Fort Laramie, most of the sheep trailed to Wyoming stopped thirty or forty miles west of this location

In 1892, B.B. Brooks, who would later serve as Wyoming's seventh Governor (1905-1910), writing about the sheep movement in Wyoming tried to describe how the average cowboy looked at sheep. “To us old cowboys they were a strange, insignificant, unromantic animal. We didn’t like their size, their appearance, their taste, or their smell. We could not chase them on horseback, for they would not run. We could not chase them on horseback, for they would not run. We could not rope them, for they dodged and would not fight. We could not brand them, on account of the wool.”
Governor Bryant Butler Brooks

Later he adds, “So we just left them alone, mostly, and wished them all kinds of bad luck, We had read of foot-rot and hoped they would get it; but somehow the dry sandy loam of our plains and decomposed granite in our mountains seemed to suit them.  . . . Then we thought, surely the blizzards, with the cold and deep snow in winter, would exterminate them; but they did not.”
In 1840, this was a wilderness Buffalo paradise - by the 1880s sheep grazed the area and the Bison were gone.


Post a Comment