Many of the men who headed west to establish the open range ranching system on the northern Great Plains in the late nineteenth century failed to grasp the enormous challenge that faced them. Attempting to produce quality live-stock for local and eastern markets, they found themselves struggling with an array of unforeseen obstacles. The worst of these were natural predators, harsh winter weather, drought, the ability of the domesticated animals to wander over great distances on the unfenced plains, and their tendency to breed indiscriminately. This article provides a detailed explanation of how all these conditions came together in the high-bred horse business on one very large ranch in southern Alberta. The author’s central argument is frontier ranching proved uneconomic in this case and thus in many others on both sides of the Canadian/American border.

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