Thousands of years BP
Native Americans inhabit the region we define as Oregon today.

The first cattle, sheep, and horses are brought into what is now the United States.

Mid 1700s
Horses are introduced into present-day Oregon.

Captains Lewis and Clark travel with their party from Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia River.

Oregons streams, rivers, and lakes teem with beaver, and commerce in beaver pelts attracts explorers, trappers, and traders to the region.

Astoria is established by the Pacific Fur Company. Hogs and sheep are brought to Oregon on the Tonquin by the Astor party.

Hudsons Bay Company imports cattle and sheep by ship from California.

Cattle and sheep are numerous in Oregon. Importations include Spanish longhorns.

Until this time, some authorities ban the butchering of cattle to allow herds to increase in size.

The first cattle drive of the West arrives in Oregon from California.

The Willamette Valley receives cattle from the California surplus. Farming and stockraising with Andalusian blacks supplants the fur economy in the Willamette Valley.

Civil government is established in the Oregon Country. Major immigration to Oregon occurs along the Oregon Trail.

Joshua Shaw and son are the first to bring sheep across the plains.

High-bred shorthorns, or Durhams, are introduced by settlers over the Oregon Trail. These cattle are the forerunners of the dairy and domestic livestock industries.

The Oregon Territory is organized. Gold is discovered in California.

Joseph Watt brings high-grade sheep over the Oregon Trail.

Gold is found along Jackson Creek in southern Oregon.

Joel Palmer becomes superintendent of Indian affairs; he later initiates the reservation system in Oregon in an effort to protect the natives.

Up until this time, millions of buffalo roam the plains from West Virginia to present-day Oregon.

The first woolen mill on the Pacific Coast opens in Salem.

Congress ratifies the Oregon State Constitution, and the state accepts the congressional proposal to be admitted to the Union.

Sheep in western Oregon are displaced in favor of wheat. Cattle drives begin across the Cascades to the Willamette Valley. The number of sheep and cattle increase with settlement in central and eastern Oregon.

Congress passes the Homestead Act, allowing 160 acres to those who would live on and work the land. This acreage was not as economically viable in the western states, with more limited rainfall, as in the East.

Gold is discovered in eastern Oregon, in Baker and Grant counties.

Large herds of Durhams and some Moors are moved from the Willamette Valley to feed miners in eastern Oregon and southern Idaho. Sheep are brought into Jordan Valley, with cattle soon to follow.

The number of sheep exceeds the demand of the woolen mills.

Herds of buffalo are destroyed. Massive migration of Texas longhorns occurs northward. The open range system develops, and branding is used to distinguish among cattle on unenclosed land. The technique of stock farmingwith enclosures, winter feed, and controlled breedingspreads from the Midwest to the Willamette Valley.

Chicago and San Francisco are connected by rail.

Oregon livestock are driven to Winnemucca for shipment in either direction. Northern California surplus cattle are moved into southeastern Oregon. Texas longhorns expand these herds.

The state takes title to swamplands granted by the federal government at time of statehood, and begins selling them. They provide excellent grazing land.

Peter French arrives in southeastern Oregon and soon manages the P Ranch and the Diamond Ranch.

The ranges teem with cattle. The first West to East cattle drive for stocking is made.

Barbed wire becomes available.

Chief Joseph leads the Nez Perce from Oregon to Canada.

Settlers bring Midwest cattle to the north end of todays Harney County. Only a few hundred buffalo remain on the plains.

The transcontinental railroad is established.

The Unlawful Enclosures Act forbids excluding other users of public domain lands with illegal fences or intimidation, which have become common practices.

Thousands of animals die on depleted rangelands during severe winter conditions.

Farmers and sheep-growers provide increasing competition to cattle ranchers. The railroad makes Shaniko one of the worlds principal wool markets.

Rail lines extend into Prineville, Lakeview, and later Redmond, Burns, and Bend, all of which become active cow and sheep towns.

Early 1900s
Range wars occur between cattle and sheep growers, e.g., in Baker, Crook, and Lake counties.

A Forest Service regulatory program requires a permit and a fee for grazing on public lands within the national forests. Grazing is possible on two-thirds of national forest land, one-third of which is open rangeland.

The United States enters World War I.

Demand for meat increases and promotes industry expansion.

The Great Depression begins.

Overgrazed lands impacted by prolonged drought cannot sustain the numbers of animals grazing on them.

The woolen mills decline. Sheep are most prominent in southeastern Oregon. Some public lands are already permanently damaged by overgrazing.

The remaining public domain is withdrawn from homesteading. The Taylor Grazing Act institutes federal protection and management of these lands; today the act guides the activities of the USDI Bureau of Land Management.

The United States enters World War II.

The agency established as the Grazing Service merges with the General Land Office to form the USDI Bureau of Land Management.

Beef cattle increase in Oregon, and dairy cows and sheep decline.

The National Environmental Policy Act is enacted.

Statewide land use planning is approved. Congress passes the Endangered Species Act.

The cattle feeding business is a major enterprise. Cattle supplant sheep in eastern Oregon. Sheep occur in greater numbers west of the Cascades, with the majority in the southern Willamette Valley on irrigated pasture or year-round pasture at the coast.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act requires that public lands be retained in federal ownership.

The Public Rangeland Improvement Act gives range improvement highest management priority, and stock reductions are initiated.

1979 The McClure Amendment requires a two-year phase-in period for stock reductions greater than 10%.

Early 1980s
A coalition of ranchers, miners, loggers, developers, farmers, and others create the Sagebrush Rebellion and argue for more local control over land management and natural resources. Ranching interests maintain grazing fees below market value.

In Oregon, 1,503,630 cattle and calves are worth $431,728,000, and 470,290 sheep and lambs are worth $37,448,000. The 95,330 milk cows in the state produce $179,169,000 in dairy products.

Most Oregon sheep are raised in farm flocks in western Oregon. Cattle and calves rank as the states number one agricultural commodity. The most extensive herds occur in central, southeastern, and northeastern Oregon2.

Adapted from Wilkinson (1992a), the video program, The Oregon Story: Ranching, and the following: Carey (1971, General History of Oregon through Early Statehood, Binfords and Mort), Dicken and Dicken (1979, Two Centuries of Oregon Geography. I. The Making of Oregon: A Study in Historical Geography, Oregon Historical Society), Dicken and Dicken (1982, Two Centuries of Oregon Geography. II. Oregon Divided: A Regional Geography, Oregon Historical Society), Dodds (1977, Oregon: A Bicentennial History, W. W. Norton and Company), Jackson and Kimerling (1993, Atlas of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon State University Press), ODonnell (1988, That Balance So Rare: The Story of Oregon, Oregon Historical Society), Warren and Ishikawa (1991, Oregon Handbook, Moon Publications), and Wills (1995, A Historical Album of Oregon, The Millbrook Press).

2Crook, Grant, Harney, Lake, Malheur, Morrow, Sherman, and Wallowa counties list livestock among their principal industries today. And livestock or dairy constitute a portion of the agricultural industry supporting at least ten other Oregon counties.