During the 1970s many small-scale cattle ranchers across the Midwest reported finding their cattle mutilated. The episode, often dismissed as mass hysteria or sensationalized reporting, demonstrates the growing dissatisfaction of many ranchers concerning government intrusiveness and restrictive policies. These frustrations found a release in response to the mutilation phenomenon during which ranchers vented their anger by taking direct aim at the federal government. The turbulent economic conditions of the period paired with government interference in the cattle industry helped sustain the mutilation phenomenon as ranchers projected their fears and insecurities through the bizarre episode. The hostility ranchers showed toward the federal government during the mutilation scare presaged and helped provide the impetus for events such as the Sagebrush Rebellion. The mutilation phenomenon also underscores the pronounced effects of the libertarian movement of the 1960s that gave rise to the New Right and gained adherents across the West and Midwest.

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