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Large farm for breeding and raising cattle, sheep, or horses. Ranching originated in South America and Mexico in early colonial times, when Spanish settlers introduced cattle and horses and tended them on the pampas. It was an itinerant form of livestock farming: herds were tended on open range, and biannual roundups were held for branding calves and driving mature animals to market. Itinerant ranching reached its peak in the 1880s. By the early 20th century, overstocking, quarantine laws, railroad competition, and barbed-wire fences had put an end to cattle drives and open-range farming. Ranching today is nearly all sedentary, but huge ranches still exist.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on ranch, visit Britannica.com.