SAT Subject US History Practice Question 744: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 744

5. The development of barbed wire in the second half of the 19th century was most significant in the history of the West because it

A. was used along railroad tracks to prevent animals from going onto the tracks.
B. enclosed Native American reservations, preventing mingling between Native Americans and whites.
C. enabled farmers to enclose their land, thus preventing cowboys from taking cattle on long runs.
D. allowed prospectors to protect their strikes from competitors.
E. was used to build a fence between Mexico and the United States to prevent illegal immigration into the United States.

Correct Answer: C


The cowboy era ended for a number of reasons, but barbed wire played a significant part. It allowed ranchers and farmers to enclose their lands, making long cattle runs unfeasible. Barbed wire was not significant in any of the ways indicated in the other choices. Railroad companies (A) would not have gone out of their way to protect wild animals. Reservations (B) were not enclosed by barbed wire. Miners (D) used means other than barbed wire to protect their claims. Parts of the border between the United States and Mexico (E) have been fortified with fences that no doubt include barbed wire, but that is a 20th-century phenomenon.

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