Pronghorn antelope all but outnumber people in wide-open Wyoming, the ninth largest but least populous state in the union, with just 460,000 residents. Above all, this is classic cowboy country – the inspiration behind Shane, The Virginian and countless other Western novels – where the days of the open range are evoked by rodeos, country-and-western dance halls and ranchwear stores. Wedged in between Yellowstone and South Dakota to the east are the helter-skelter Bighorn Mountains, likeable Old West towns such as Buffalo, and the otherworldly outcrop of Devils Tower.
The meager supply of buffalo in early Wyoming caused fierce intertribal wars over hunting grounds and kept the Native American population down to around 10,000. However, Sioux, Cheyenne and Blackfoot combined to inflict notable defeats on the US Army before it could clear the way for pioneer settlement in the 1870s.The cattle ranchers and sheep-farming homesteaders who followed engaged in violent range wars over grazing rights to the wiry grasslands.
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