What An Unbranded Cow Has Cost by Frederic Remington, which depicts the aftermath of a range war between cowboys and supposed rustlers. 1895

A range war, also known as range conflict or cattle war, is a type of usually violent conflict, most commonly in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the American West. The subject of these conflicts was control of "open range", or range land freely used for cattle grazing, which gave the conflict its name. Typically they were disputes over water rights or grazing rights and cattle ownership.[1]

Range wars occurred prior to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, which regulated grazing allotments on public land. Range wars included the Pleasant Valley War, Colfax County War, Castaic Range War, San Elizario Salt War, Mason County War, Porum Range War, Johnson County War, Pecos War, Fence Cutting Wars, Sheep Wars, Barber–Mizell feud, Stuart's Stranglers conflict, and others.

While in previous centuries violence may have been involved,[2] the term is now applied to nonviolent competition for scarce resources, such as between ranchers and environmentalists,[3] or between ranchers and fans of wild horses.[4]

A range war is also a slang term for a turf war or disagreement about proper hierarchy or relationship and is often used in a joking manner. In this sense, the term is found in politics[5] and business.[6]

In literature and the arts

Range wars have been the subject of movies and novels. Some examples are:

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Johnson, Marilynn S. Violence in the West: The Johnson County Range War and Ludlow Massacre: A Brief History with Documents. Bedford Series in History & Culture: First edition (2008). p. 12. ISBN 978-0312445799
  2. ^ For example, from the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society site Cecilia Rasmussen. "Castaic Range War Left Up to 21 Dead". Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Retrieved 2004-07-04. (sourced from the Los Angeles Times): "The violent, long-running Jenkins-Chormicle feud, which started in 1890 over a boundary dispute, is a colorful and cruel saga – part fact, part myth – of barn burnings, ambushes and gun battles on horseback. It lasted more than two decades." describes a Southern California range war that started in 1890.
  3. ^ For example, from the U of Idaho Range Management site Archived 2006-04-27 at the Wayback Machine telling of conflict in Idaho: " Range wars continue, just as they did a century ago, between those who have grazing rights and those who do not. Today these range wars pit ranchers, with state grazing leases, against the environmental groups that are trying to restore the grazing lease areas to a healthy and pristine land. The weapons have changed from the cold steel of a gun to the amount of cold hard cash a rancher or an environmental group will pay for a piece of land."
  4. ^ For example, from the MSNBC site, telling of Bureau of Land Management policy changes and impacts: "The mustangs' current troubles come thanks in part to another Western icon: cattle ranchers. There are currently 37,000 mustangs sharing public rangelands with several million head of cattle. The result has been overgrazing, exacerbated by six years of drought. To restore the land, the BLM has cut the number of cattle allowed, and ranchers say the horses and burros have to be pared substantially. "If we don't receive relief, and soon, we'll be out of business," Lemoille, Nev., rancher Kenneth Jones"
  5. ^ For example, the Irregular Times Archived 2006-03-29 at the Wayback Machine site describes a disagreement among Democratic Party regulars in upstate New York as a "range war". In this case the "unfenced territory" is an election district, and the hearts and minds of Democratic party regulars
  6. ^ For example, the Mac Observer site characterises the conflict between IBM and the SCO Group as a "range war". In this case, the "unfenced territory" is the Unix/Linux marketplace, and the hearts and minds of technical, purchase influencing, IT people.
  7. ^ Range war by Paine, Lauran
  8. ^ "The Range War".
  9. ^ "Gunsmoke - Single Episodes". 5 January 2020.