“The livestock business has come to be one of the most important, if not the most important, business now transacted in Buffalo,” read the front page of the Buffalo Morning Express in 1873.
Buffalo’s location as a rail center located halfway between midwestern ranches and eastern population centers caused the numbers of cattle, sheep, hogs and horses grow exponentially through the 1860s and 1870s.
The stockyards grew up around the East Buffalo tracks of the New York Central Railroad, and the railroad was the original owner and operator of the yards.
Railroad control helped insure “comfortable and safe housing of all livestock” plus “prompt and efficient transportation facilities,” according to a 1903 Buffalo Times article which called the East Buffalo yards “the finest in the United States of America,” with room for 100,000 animals.
The yards ran along William Street, in an area covered today in part by the William Street Post Office and former mail processing center.
At the height of livestock trading in Buffalo, only Chicago’s stockyards were bigger than Buffalo’s. As many as 15,000 cattle passed through the East Buffalo yards each Monday morning. By the early 1980s, those numbers had dwindled to as few as 300 hogs and 75 cattle each week.
The Buffalo Livestock Yards closed for good in 1983.