Sheep-raising started as a nomadic enterprise in the late 1880-early 1890’s. Often the owners of the animals were not even Coloradoan. Many ran their operation from Utah, pasturing their herds in the mountain ranges along the border shared by the two states.
There had always been conflicts between the two lifestyles. The shepherds moved their flocks long distances looking for the best grazing, and traveled through most of the ranching country. They felt that the infrequent visits they made to an area shouldn’t make much difference to those who live there.
Cowmen resented them from the start, complaining that the sheep destroyed the land by grazing too close to the ground, leaving the plants defenseless against the drying rays of the harsh summer sun and the wind.
When the government limited the mountain grazing landing in 1891, smoldering resentment flared into open conflict. Cowboys rode through he sheep camps, stampeding the flocks and threatening the herders. The nastiness was especially marked toward neighbors who had the nerve to run sheep on the range the early cattlemen had fought so hard to claim.
Another way the cattle king’s used to maintain control of their way of life was to command as much land as possible. They forced homesteaders away from the rivers and springs and pre-empted the abandoned land. Aggravating the upheaval was the drastic drop in beef prices during the panic of 1893. This economic blow proved to be more than smaller cattle operations and farmer could handle and many failed during this period. They were immediately swallowed up by the cattle “kings” who could still get financial backing, either from local banks or eastern and European investors, who continued to have faith in the teetering agricultural business.
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