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One of the most colourful chapters in the history of North American settlement began in the 1880s when the rich Alberta grasslands spreading east from the foothills of the Rockies became the magnet for cattle ranching. Award-winning Cattle Kingdom provides readers with all the colourful tales of raffish characters, political intrigues and partnerships, fortunes made and lost, and the harsh realities of prairie winters. The era also gave us the mythic figure of the cowboy, still prominent in Alberta today.
Nowhere is the story of ranching more rich and varied than in Alberta. There was an assortment of high rollers, big-money men from the east, English lords and remittance men, along with refugees from the American west and ordinary folk seeking a homestead and a new dream. The newly formed North West Mounted Police was on hand as well. Famous ranches were created during this period, including the Cochrane, the Oxley and the North West Cattle Company (Bar U). The cast of characters included John Ware; the brave and foolhardy Major-General Thomas Bland Strange, who had plans for a ranch for retired British army types; and the scrappy Pat Burns, who parlayed a small slaughterhouse in Calgary into a giant meat-packing and cattle empire.
By the time of the first Calgary Stampede in 1912, the cattle kingdom was on the wane. More and more settlers arrived and began fencing and farming the once limitless grazing lands. And then came the discovery of oil. But during its brief and brilliant season in the sun, early ranching in Alberta put an indelible stamp on the history and culture of the Canadian west.