Cattle Guards
what you don't know could hurt you (and your livestock)

a cattle guard or stock gap
photo credit:

A Homestead & Miniature Cattle Directory editorial report
published online: December 2018 by Vintage Press, LLC.
author: Donna Grace Vickery

A stock gap or cattle guard is an obstacle to block livestock from crossing a gate area. Cattle guards are used to contain cattle, and for vehicles to drive over without having to open & shut a gate, for convenience & safety.

“Cattle guards were a must on ranch roads crossing a fence line. Saved time of opening and closing a gate -- you just drive right through. Cows, for some reason would not try to cross.” Pen and ink drawing by Bill Duane Brooks, 1974, Ira, Texas; image credit: Pinterest

The gaps (or their shadows) between the bars is a strong visual deterrent to cattle and they usually will not attempt to cross it.


Tricking Cows - blogger, RV'ing
Title: Tricking Cows RV'ing: 2009-04-22 Wednesday AZ

Fake cattle guards are sometimes painted on highways or freeway entrances etc., because just the appearance of shadows from crossed bars over a hole will deter most livestock.


many ranchers have stock gaps made from used, round oil pipe

Most cattle guards are made from horizontal (usually metal) pipe or bars inserted in a driveway over a depression or hole in the ground and parallel with the fence line. Some are make of poured concrete molds. They come in difference spacing, and different sizes and shapes of metal bars. Those differences affect how humane a stock gap is or not, for the occasional unlucky animal that tries or is chased into trying to cross it. The size of the animal trying to cross one, and the speed of the animal, also help determine how humane or inhumane a stock gap can be.


governments often use heavy duty stock guards on public road access

Some rural homeowners don't find out until it is too late, that the cattle guards built and used by the county or state or the US government on our public roads (paid for by our taxes) are some of the most dangerous, cruel, torture contraptions ever designed. For any poor horse or cow that happens to be chased over a government-made cattle guard, it usually has to be shot out of mercy, after hours of agony.


cattle guard yellow dangerous closeup
closeup of an unecessarily dangerous cattle guard design

Cattle guards used by the government are often made of triangular shaped pipes laid closely together. Being so close, probably allows passage for heavier vehicles. But other than that, they are still designed to work like animal traps. I have never been able to figure out why; I could never see a benefit to its design. These cattle guards capture the animal, and the triangle bars funnel the feet down between the bars. The bars are set just far enough apart to allow most breeds of livestock to fall through between them, but close enough that once through, the foot actually literally cannot be pulled back up and out. In addition, the bars have 2 open, raw, sharp edges underneath. The raw edges catch the fetlock joint, or the hoof, and cuts deeply into the flesh, breaking bones while the animals struggles to escape.

green triangle stock gap used by BLM
another example of the lethal type stock gap often used by BLM, USFS, USFWS
photo credit:

When the federal government sets up roads on BLM ground, or state governments build or widen highways, it will often install hundreds of these most dangerous kinds of stock gaps; one in each rural property's driveway. The property owners may be grateful that they aren't required to buy and install a new gate, or a cattle guard themselves. But if they are among the unlucky, after blood, sweat and tears, they learn the hard way, to either build one themselves, or buy a used one that was built more humanely. I believe the government stock gap may have been designed mainly for deer. If your homestead livestock are goats, sheep or very small miniature cattle, maybe government-provided cattle guards might not be too bad (although they are still unecessarily sharp underneath).

cattle guards; a report

Experienced livestock owners often buy or make their own humane cattle guards out of heavy round pipe, with no sharp edges, and placed far enough apart to allow a foot to be pulled right back out, hopefully without further damage after the fall. Any stock gap is dangerous to livestock, so there is no guarantee, but the animal's chances are much better with a more humane stock gap design.

Mrs Showoff

On the Lighter Side...

Watch Wayne Clark's Texas Longhorn cow, Mrs. Showoff, show you how it's done here: (facebook video).



When the Grass is Greener....

when the grass is greener
Photo by Robert Neal, Palisades Point Farm, Kentucky.
{photo used w/ permission}

“This is our neighbor's calf jumping across our cattle guard. Apparently, our grass is tastier than the grass at her home...” ... posted on Facebook, Easter Sunday, April 04, 2021.

go HOME little cow

green mini bar

Homestead & Miniature Cattle Directory

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