Question Sam Loyd's Cyclopedia of Puzzles Answer
W3N Home Introduction Puzzles by Page Puzzles by Title Puzzles by Type Feedback
Proposition: How can you enclose as many acres of land as there are twelve-foot rails to a fence?

HERE IS A PRETTY puzzle from the Lone Star State, introducing a famous old problem and a bit of American history with which many of our readers are doubtless familiar. Texas was practically settled, or rather overrun, by the Americans as far back as 1830, but it was not until the end of fifteen years of fighting with the Mexicans and Indians that it was admitted into the Union, and it was shortly after that date that the famous squatter law was introduced which gave a settler free all the land he would enclose or cultivate within a year from the time of taking possession. Some of the early settlers had pretty hard times with the Indians, greasers and bears, but the descendants of such as managed to “stick it out” as they termed it, now rank among the great cattle kings of the world, and, according to an official report just issued during the past month, it will soon develop that some of the most wealthy landed proprietors of the world will be found to be Indians. Among the great ranches of the West, whose owners would not be appalled by the size of the flocks of the “white hulls and the dappled bulls which grazed on the plains of Sicily” as grandiloquently described by Archimedes, may be mentioned the comfortable ranch of Texas Pete, a half-breed Indian, who was among the first to take up land under the squatter act which gave him the ownership of all the land he could enclose or cultivate within one year.

According to his own story, and he is still a hale and hearty man, although well beyond the three score years and ten allotment, he says his wife was the better man of the two in staking out their claim. The understanding, as he explains it, was that they were to get free all the land they could enclose with a three-rail fence within twelve months, so for one whole year he and his wife were putting up this fence, which enclosed an immense tract of land, which they afterward cultivated or turned into great pasture fields which eventually became filled with flocks of sheep and cattle.

From this story we deduct the following curious problem: Let us suppose that the tract of land is exactly square and is enclosed by a three- rail fence, as shown in the sketch, and that each rail is exactly twelve feet long. Now, then supposing that there are just as many acres enclosed as there are rails in the entire fence. How many acres of land has Texas Pete got in his great cattle ranch?

Forty-three thousand, five hundred and sixty rails will just enclose that number of acres and is, therefore, the correct answer, which we get at in the following way:

We first find the possibilities of one rail, so we cut a twelve-foot rail into four pieces three feet long, and by then cutting again for the four sides find that the one rail would enclose just one foot, so there are just 43,560 square feet in an acre, as one foot is to 43,560, gives the correct answer. Take 43,560 rails, divide by three to get the three-rail high, and by four to get the four sides. We then multiply the side by 12 again to get the length in feet, and find it is still 43,560, which we square to get the total number of feet. Divide again by 43,560, the number of feet to an acre, and we get the correct answer.


Who may marry many a wife and still be single all his life? A clergyman.

Why is a plum-pudding like the ocean? Because it contains many currants.

Of what trade is a minister at a wedding? A joiner.

What three misses are those whose days are always unlucky? Mis-chance, mis-fortune and mishap.

What miss is always making blunders? Mistake.

What misses are of a very jealous tempers? Mis-give and mis-trust.

Why is an umbrella a paradox? Because it is best when used up.

When does the shoemaker display wonderful powers of endurance? When he holds on to the last.

What part of the face resembles a schoolmaster? The eyelid, because it always has a pupil under the lash.

At what time of life may a man be said to belong to the vegetable kingdom? When long experience has made him sage.

Which is she gayest letter in the alphabet? U, because it is always in fun.

When is a very angry man like a clock fifty-nine minutes past twelve? When he is just going to strike one.

[Page 87]