Cattle Drive

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A common plotline for a Western is the Cattle Drive.

Ranches raise cattle, but then they need to get them to market. Usually the target is a town along the railroad, but occasionally the destination is somewhere else. A Western based on a Cattle Drive is more likely to star plain old Working cowboys as the stars, rather than using them as scenery.

In Real Life these were among the great risks to a ranch. They need to transport the cattle to make money, but if something goes wrong they could lose everything. Dangers include a stampede, rustlers, snakes, storms, flash floods, drought, ect.

Often a form of MacGuffin Escort Mission.

Examples of Cattle Drive include:


  • The 50's TV series Rawhide, starring a young Clint Eastwood, was about a cattle drive.
  • The first City Slickers movie was set around some city guys temporarily joining a ranch and helping on the cattle drive, facing just about every stereotypical problem on the ways, plus a few others.
  • The novel Centennial by James Michener. It was specifically mentioned how much more hazardous this was than a normal cattle drive, because it was a mixed gender herd for a new ranch, this was late in the season, and they'd have to go through hostile Indian territory.
  • The Cowboys. With all the men in the district gone, Wil Anderson is forced to use high schoolers to take his herd to market.
  • Red River, also starring John Wayne.
  • The novel The Log of a Cowboy by Andy Adams is a fictionalised account of a cattle drive written by a former working cowboy.
  • The characters from The Virginian appear leading one of these in the tele-movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of Draw which features cameos by cast members of many classic TV westerns.
  • Stan Smith of American Dad dragooned his son and son's friends into a cattle drive through city streets in an effort to make them "more manly." Hilarity Ensues, especially as Stan is more delusional than usual during the event.
  • The novel Lonesome Dove features a cattle drive to Montana, and manages to include the obligatory stampedes, rustlers, snakes, flash floods, storms, wild Indians, etc... and having to eat grasshoppers.
  • The movie Australia features a huge cattle drove across the Outback to Darwin.
  • Classic Australian film The Overlanders, herding cattle halfway across the continent under the threat of Japanese invasion.
  • A minor (and buggy) sidequest from Fallout 2 has the player escorting a cattle drive that can run into anything from bandits and scorpions to Super Mutants with rocket launchers and miniguns.
  • Predictably, the western "Cattle Drive" featured one of these.
  • In Broken Trail, rather than cattle, the animals being driven are horses, but apart from that the storyline follows the model of the Cattle Drive.
  • In the book and movie Old Yeller, one of the main plot point is that the father of the family has gone on a cattle drive, leaving his wife and two kids at home.
  • The most famous Real Life route was the Chisholm Trail between Texas and Kansas where the railhead ended. The herds were mostly the descendants of maverick herds abandoned by Mexican's because of Comanche raids and rounded up by incoming Texans.