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In Australia, such stealing is often referred to as duffing, and the perpetrator as a duffer. In North America, especially in cowboy culture, cattle theft is dubbed rustling and an individual who engages in it is a rustler.
Historically, the act of cattle rustling is quite ancient, with the first suspected raids conducted over seven thousand years ago.
Cattle raids play an important part in Indo-European mythology; see for example Táin Bó Cúailnge (Irish), the Rigvedic Panis (India), and the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, who steals the cattle of Apollo (Greece). These myths are often paired with myths of the abduction of women (compare Helen, Sita, Saranyu, The Rape of the Sabine Women). Abduction of women and theft of livestock were practiced in many of the world's preurbanised cultures, the former likely reaching back to the Paleolithic, and the latter to the earliest domestication of animals in the Neolithic.
In numerous Sangam Tamil texts Cattle raiding is the warning given by war proposed team. Successively Cattle rescuing was done by war opposed team. In Mahabharatha there are several incidents which mentioned about Cattle raiding and rescuing.
One cause of tensions between Mexico and the United States in the years leading up to the Mexican-American War was the frequent raiding of cattle by Native Americans from north of the border. The military and diplomatic capabilities of Mexico had declined after it attained independence and left the northern one-half of the country vulnerable to the Comanche, Apache, and Navajo Indians. The Indians, especially the Comanche, took advantage of Mexico's weakness to undertake large-scale raids hundreds of miles deep into the country to steal livestock for their own use and to supply an expanding market in Texas and the United States. The Indian raids left thousands of people dead and devastated northern Mexico. When American troops entered northern Mexico in 1846 they found a demoralized people. There was little resistance to the Americans from the civilian population.
Mexican rustlers were a major issue during the American Civil War, with the Mexican government being accused of supporting the habit, as it was for the American rustlers stealing Mexican cattle from across the border. Failure to brand new calves facilitated theft.
The transition from open range to fenced grazing gradually reduced the practice of rustling in North America. In the 20th century, so called 'suburban rustling' became more common, with rustlers anesthetizing cattle and taking them directly to auction. It often takes place at night, posing problems for law enforcement because on very large ranches it can take several days for loss of cattle to be noticed and reported. Convictions are rare to nonexistent.
Cattle raiding became a major issue at the end of the 19th century in Argentina, where cattle stolen during malones were taken through Rastrillada de los chilenos across the Andes to Chile, where they were exchanged for alcoholic beverages and weapons. Several indigenous groups, and outlaws such as the Boroanos and Ranqueles tribes and the Pincheira brothers, ravaged the southern frontier of Argentina in search of cattle. To prevent the cattle raiding, the Argentine government built a system of trenches called Zanja de Alsina in the 1870s. Most cattle raids ended after the military campaigns of the Conquest of the Desert, and the following partition of Patagonia by Chile and Argentina established by the 1881 Border Treaty.
The northern Kenya – bordering Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia – is very insecure area. For years now, there has been a number of cattle raids going on, terrorising the civilian population and killing hundreds of people.
Cattle raiding is also a major problem in rural areas of South Sudan. In the state of Jonglei, cattle raids in August 2011 left around 600 people dead. Once again in January 2012, ethnic clashes related to cattle theft killed between 2000 and 3000 and displaced as many as 34,500 in the area around Pibor.
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