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A split-rail fence is made from logs. The split-rail fence is known by many names such as a zigzag fence, a snake fence, and even a worm fence. These names are in reference to a split-rail fence’s winding design. They were often used by North American pioneers in frontier times to define property lines, contain livestock and horses, and to cordon off blocks of land on a homestead.

Where Do Split-Rail Fences Get Their Name?

Split-Rail, or zigzag, fences are made from wooden logs. This type of fence rental Calgary requires an abundant timber source. Split-Rail fencing is usually only found where logs are in abundant supply. These logs are split lengthwise into rails, which is where the split-rail style of fence gets its name.

How to Construct a Split-Rail Fence?

Authentic split-rail fences, the type built first built by pioneers in frontier times, used timber logs and not much out for materials. Prior to the elimination of the American chestnut by chestnut blight, the tree was the timber of choice in split-rail fence construction. This style of fencing did not require post hole diggers and was extremely easy to construct. You only needed a few simple tools to build this type of fence, a sledgehammer and Iron or hardwood wedges.

A split-rail fence is easy to build. You can even construct it on hard or rocky terrain. A log was placed on the ground, and a wedge would be inserted into an end of the log. The wedge was then struck by a sledgehammer until it started to split the log. Once a split started, the wedge would be placed a few feet down from the start of the split and hit again. After the logs were split, the rails were stacked zigzag with the end of each section of fence stacked at the end of the next section.

A term that pioneers used to explain how to construct split-rail fences was, “Hog low, horse high.” This term meant that the fence had to be constructed with the rails close enough that a hog couldn’t escape, but high enough that a horse couldn’t easily jump over it.

Because split-rail fences were not anchored to the ground or nailed together, they could easily be disassembled and reassembled as required. This loose construction made it easy for pioneers to section off grazing areas and to separate animals as necessary.

Where are Split-Rail Fences Used?

Split-rail fencing is found in Canada and the United States of America. Historically, split-rail fencing is used on large properties such as acreages, farms, and ranches. However, in modern times, split-rail fencing has evolved into a style of fencing that is interesting and decorative. Today, this type of fence is used to add rustic charm to a property, section off gardens, and even as a place to add decorations. Think wagon wheels, birdhouses, and even flowerpots.

The installation of modern split-rail fences, especially as decorative accents, follows a more traditional path. Post hole diggers remove the soil from the ground, and then workers install posts. After installation, then rails are attached between the posts using nails are screws. Add a stain to protect the fence from the elements.

Abraham Lincoln, The Rail Splitter

Abraham Lincoln grew up on the American frontier. It was there that Lincoln learned many homesteading skills. These skills later became part of his identity even after he left home to seek a life as a gentleman lawyer and politician. A young Abraham cleared land, tended crops, and cared for livestock. One of his many duties was to build fences. By many accounts, Lincoln was very good at building split-rail fences, and his father would regularly hire him out to other homesteaders, farmers, and ranchers. During the American Civil War, split-rail fences were a primary source of firewood for both the Union and Confederate armies.

The Split-Rail Fence

The split-rail fence has an interesting historical significance that North Americans leverage to this day. Its evolution into a decorative fencing option would likely shock the pioneers who first came up with the design. We hope you had fun learning all about the split-rail fence.

Author Bio: Battlefield Supply Corp provides high-quality temporary fencing solutions to Calgary, Alberta and the surrounding area. They are fence enthusiasts. To learn more about Battlefield Supply, call them today at

403-700-5922. They are open from 7 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. You can also visit their website at to learn more about their products and services.

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