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Cattle associations are the primary type of organization responsible for promoting and protecting the interests of the cattle industry. As such, cattle associations have become involved in political issues, and at times throughout the history of the American West, they have wielded both economic and political power.

The cattle association, like the cattle industry itself, was largely imported from elsewhere. In colonial Mexico, organizations called mestas controlled brands, managed roundups and strays, regulated ranch lands, and pursued rustlers. Given authority by the Spanish throne, however, these organizations often carried the rule of law. Mestas would remain in use by ranchers throughout the Southwest up through the Mexican-American War.

When Texas began to attract American ranchers in the early nineteenth century, these ranchers came to face similar problems. ...

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