Wyoming Rustling

 Cattle rustling was once an enormous problem in Wyoming and the West, or was it?
These guys tried to keep the herd safe going north. (Rawhide)
Before the dry summer and disastrous winter of 1886-87, the big ranches held so many cattle that they were often only estimated, never counted. Rustlers or loopers commonly roped (threw a loop around) Mavericks and any other non-branded or poorly branded cattle on the open range. No one cared, everyone lost a few. At the time, nine million cattle roamed the cowboy state. However, the four-day storm that started on January 28, 1887, changed all that. Never again would Wyoming boast of so many cattle and by the turn of the century Wyoming had an estimated three million head, a much more manageable number.


But with this manageable number came changes. Ranchers now with smaller herds kept a real count of their stock. Stock detectives like the notorious Tom Horn were paid sums reported to be as much as $500 per man by the big ranchers for being, judge, jury and executioner for any supposed cattle thief. By the time Horn was hung in 1903 in downtown Cheyenne, rustlers had long become more story than fact.
Tom Horn
Hard to believe that so many books, television shows and movies about cattle rustling in Wyoming, but the period only lasted from about 1868-1890. It possibly could be stretched to 1903, when Horn was executed at the age of 42.
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