"Steal a man's horses and you've stopped him from working, getting to town for store-bought necessities, or running for the doctor when the babies catch diptheria. You've endangered his whole family. Steal a small ranch's cattle, and you've pushed a family further from survival next season. They won't even have a chance to choose between cash crop and beef on the table. On the open range, a cowboy stranded miles from anywhere without his horse faced death by dehydration, starvation, animal attack or snakebite — not to mention humiliation.
These crimes were serious far beyond the livestock's dollar values, even in the days when internal combustion machines were beginning to show up on Western ranches. Hanging once had been thought to fit the crime, but in the early 1900s the punishment was more humane: fifteen or so years in prison. As for stealing automobiles, that was still something of a Robin Hood venture — taking a luxury item from the rich."
-from Horse Stealing, Cattle Stealing, Auto Theft: Get on that Pony and Ride
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