By the mid-1800s, ranching was no longer strictly a Hispanic profession. When Anglo ranchers began to set up their own operations during and following the Texas Revolution, they learned how to succeed by studying the Vaqueros. The new mix of Hispanic and non-Hispanic cultures further transformed both the practice of ranching and the culture of the area.
The biggest change the influx of new ranchers brought was the end of the open range and the beginning of enclosed ranches. As these ranchers purchased land, they fenced it. This made possible the improvement of breeds, food sources, control of ownership of cattle and much else. This also brought about the era of large Coastal Bend ranches that shaped ranching, ranching families, and their impact on the region. For the next half century the number of cattle continued to grow. Ranchers began to replace the ubiquitous Longhorn with new breeds of cattle.
Barbed wire was a French invention first patented in the U.S. in 1867, but it did not gain favor with cattlemen until the late 1870s.
Joseph Glidden of Dekalb, Illinois, received a patent for his barbed wire in 1874, and it was wire of his manufacture that was the first barbed wire fencing successfully demonstrated in Texas. In 1876, salesmen Pete McManus and John Warne Gates made their first demonstration of "the Glidden winner" barbed wire. In San Antonio’s Alamo Plaza, McManus and Gates set up a barbed wire corral and then drove a herd of longhorn cattle into the pen. Under the astonished eyes of cowboys and cattlemen, the corral held the thundering animals. Gates reportedly touted the product as "light as air, stronger than whiskey, and cheap as dirt." Sales of barbed wire grew quickly thereafter.
Within 25 years nearly all the open range in the Coastal Bend had become privately owned and was under fence.
The 1870s introduction of barbed wire, and more individually-owned land replacing the open range system was a big change for Coastal Bend ranching. This change introduced fences, water problems, and innovations to improve cattle breeding. In the interest of improving on their cattle, ranchers began importing new breeds to Texas. The most significant of these incoming breeds was Brahman cattle from India. These cows were notably heat tolerant, required little water, and were not susceptible to ticks or common eye diseases.
Local cattlemen John N. Keeran and Shanghai Pierce imported the first Brahmans and jointly bred and crossbred them. Later, James A. McFaddin, Thomas M. O’Connor, and Henry Clay Koontz, Jr helped popularize the breed.
Most ranchers did not raise Brahmans for their meat, but instead they crossbred them with other kinds of cattle to establish heartier breeds.