Over the centuries, the feuds between cattlemen and owners of this meek animal have been notorious.
But even during the height of the cattle drives there were sheep in Dodge City. According to William B. Shillingberg in his book "Dodge City: The Early Years 1872 - 1886," in 1876, "Even sheep crowded the Dodge City stockyards."
As claimed by the same author, by mid-April 1877 several flocks of sheep had arrived in Dodge City from the southwest.
Though cattle are most talked about in early Kansas history, in the 1870's and 1880's, sheep were vital to the Kansas livestock industry. According to the Kansas Historical Society, in 1884 there were 1,270,000 sheep in Kansas.
Still, all was not always rosy for sheepherders. In September 1878, Dull Knife's band of Cheyenne that had escaped from a reservation in Indian Territory, killed 250 of S.B. Williamson's sheep on Crooked Creek. The next day they attacked Boynton's sheep camp 32 miles to the southwest.
Also a concern for sheep men was the threat of disease. Around 1880, Wright, Beverly & Co. advertised "Ladd's Celebrated Sheep Dip" for the prevention and cure of "scab," which is a mite infestation of sheep.
A type of mange, scabs form causing loss of wool sometimes resulting in death of the animal.
There was an even bigger threat for those who raised sheep in the old west. Between 1870 and 1920, over 54 men were killed and between 50,000 and 100,000 sheep were destroyed in a series of armed battles during the Sheep Wars or the Sheep and Cattle Wars.
Though they happened over a wide part of the west, these conflicts were most prevalent in Texas, Arizona and along the Wyoming and Colorado border.
Sheepherders tended to work on foot or from small wagons or burros; cattle herders were mounted and literally looked down on sheep men with contempt. Many sheep were killed by having their throats slit in a message from cattlemen to sheepherders to get off the land.
The conflict was mainly over grazing rights.
Cattleman were on the range first and saw the sheepherders as intruders. Cowboys claimed sheep made the land unusable for an extended time because they tended to eat grass right down to the root and left an odor repugnant to horses and cattle.
However, with proper land management, this doesn't happen and sheep and cattle can peacefully co-exist.
Early in the 20th century these battles died down. Despite an occasional grumbling from ranchers about the deleterious effects of sheep, they do appear in rodeos such as the Dodge City Days Round-Up. Young children ride (or attempt to) sheep in an event called "mutton busting."
However, southwest Kansas is still firmly cattle country with sheep few and far between.