Cattle Guards – Not Hired Guns

I have heard all the bad jokes, or maybe they were just from the misinformed, but no, cattle guards are not folks hired to watch over the cow herd.

According to the Wikipedia page, these “cattle guards” go by several names depending on where you find them; “cattle grid” for the British, vehicle pass, Texas gate, stock gap, or even cattle stop for those in New Zealand. What ever its called, I have seen many of them.As a kid we always had a cattle guard in our main entrance, and where I am now we have cattle guards in pasture entrances on the highway and on the main road throughout the ranch. Cattle guards make life much easier by not having to handle gates. I never saw cattle guards on public roads until I traveled I-25 in New Mexico and they are everywhere in Wyoming. Now that I know many parts of Wyoming are under open range law this makes more sense. I really had a hard time finding a definition of “open-range” and this is as close as I could get. Basically land owners have to fence livestock out rather than the livestock being “fenced-in”. Sorry…side-tracked again…

Anyway… There is not a whole lot of history I could find on cattle guards, but I did manage to find that the early concept of cattle guards in the U.S. was to keep cattle off railroad right-of-ways, but still allowing traffic to pass. Many cattle guards are found in open-range areas or roads through public lands today. It’s really cool to be driving along the highway, cross a cattle guard on a fence line, then next thing ya know there’s a herd of cattle in your path. I know one family probably didn’t know what to think while we were driving a herd of heifers down a highway in Wyoming.