Cattle drive

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A modern small-scale cattle drive in New Mexico, USA Cattle round up.jpg
A modern small-scale cattle drive in New Mexico, USA

A cattle drive is the process of moving a herd of cattle from one place to another, usually moved and herded by cowboys on horses.



In medieval central Europe, annual cattle drives brought Hungarian Grey cattle across the Danube River to the beef markets of Western Europe. [1] In the 16th century the Swiss operated cattle drives over the St. Gotthard Pass to the markets in Bellinzona and Lugano and into Lombardy in northern Italy. The drives had ended by 1700 when sedentary dairy farming proved more profitable.[ citation needed ]


Australia is noted for long drives. Patsy Durack, for instance, left Queensland for the Kimberley in Western Australia in 1885 with 8,000 cattle, arriving with only half that number some two years and two months later, completing a drive of some 3,000 miles. Indeed, long cattle drives continued well into the latter half of the twentieth century. [2]

On March 26, 1883 two Scottish/Australian families, the MacDonalds and the McKenzies, began a huge cattle drive from Clifford's Creek near Goulburn, New South Wales to the Kimberley, where they established "Fossil Downs" station. The journey of over 6,000 km lasted more than three years and involved Charles ('Charlie') MacDonald (1851–1903) and William Neil ('Willie') MacDonald (1860–1910), sons of Donald MacDonald from Broadford on the Isle of Skye (who had sailed from Scotland in the 1830s). The family moved to Clifford's Creek, Laggan, and the brothers had become expert bushmen. The cattle drive was undertaken after Donald MacDonald heard glowing reports of the Kimberley from Scots/Australian explorer Alexander Forrest in 1879. The MacDonalds and the McKenzies formed a joint venture to obtain leases in the Kimberley and to stock them by overlanding the cattle. The brothers were joined by their cousins Alexander and Donald MacKenzie, Peter Thomson, James McGeorge and Jasper Pickles. They set out with 670 cattle, 32 bullocks yoked to two wagons and 86 horses. All foodstuffs and equipment for the long journey were carried in the wagons. Drought conditions delayed progress and most of the original party, apart from Charlie and Willie MacDonald, withdrew long before Cooper's Creek was reached. Stock losses were replaced, only to be reduced again by the continued drought. Despite a grueling journey through crocodile- and mosquito-infested territory in the top end with frequent Aboriginal attacks, the cattle eventually arrived at the junction of the Margaret and Fitzroy Rivers in July 1886 and "Fossil Downs" station was established. It is the longest cattle drive in history. [3] [4]

United States

Cattle herd and cowboy, circa 1902 Cowboy1902.jpg
Cattle herd and cowboy, circa 1902

Cattle drives involved cowboys on horseback moving herds of cattle long distances to market. Cattle drives were at one time a major economic activity in the American West, particularly between the years 1866-1895, when 10 million cattle were herded from Texas to railheads in Kansas for shipments to stockyards in Chicago and points east. Drives usually took place in Texas on the Goodnight-Loving Trail (1866), Potter-Bacon trail (1883), Western trail (1874), Chisholm Trail (1867) and Shawnee Trail (1840s).

Due to the extensive treatment of cattle drives in fiction and film, the cowboy tending to a herd of cattle has become the worldwide iconic image of the American West.

See also

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Chisholm Trail

The Chisholm Trail was a trail used in the post-Civil War era to drive cattle overland from ranches in Texas to Kansas railheads. The trail was established by Black Beaver, a Lenape (Delaware) guide and rancher, and his friend Jesse Chisholm, a merchant. They collected and drove numerous cattle along the trail to Kansas, where they could be shipped East to garner high prices.

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Fossil Downs Station pastoral lease and cattle station in Kimberley region of Western Australia

Fossil Downs Station is a pastoral lease and cattle station located about 50 kilometres (31 mi) North East of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Gogo Station pastoral lease in the Kimberley of Western Australia

Gogo or Gogo Station and sometimes referred to as Margaret Downs is a pastoral lease that has operated as a cattle station. It is located about 11 kilometres (7 mi) south of Fitzroy Crossing and 83 kilometres (52 mi) north east of Yungngora in the Kimberley region of Western Australia,

Brunette Downs Station

Brunette Downs Station, mostly referred to as Brunette Downs, is a pastoral lease operating as a cattle station in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Yeeda Station Pastoral lease

Yeeda Station is a pastoral lease that operates as a cattle station in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Cherrabun Autralian outback station

Cherrabun or Cherrabun Station is a pastoral lease and that once operated as a sheep station but presently operates as a cattle station located in Western Australia.


Liveringa or Liveringa Station, often referred to as Upper Liveringa Station, is a pastoral lease in Western Australia that once operated as a sheep station but presently operates as a cattle station.

Glenroy Station

Glenroy Station is a pastoral lease that operates as a cattle station in Western Australia.

Donald MacDonald mostly known as Dan MacDonald was a prominent Australian pastoralist.


  1. Longhorns at Home on Hungarian Range. Los Angeles Times. April 06, 2003.
  2. "The Americanisation of the Outback: Cowboys and Stockmen", login required.
  3. McKenzie, Keith. They Paved the Way, Mudgee Guardian, NSW,(1980), pp79-92, ISBN   0-9594968-0-7
  4. McDonald, Nan. Burn To Billabong, Portofino Design Group Pty Ltd, (1988), pp87-90, ISBN   0-7316-2284-7