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Deciding what type of fence to install often comes down to function. If you have livestock, you need a fence that will meet a specific need. The most crucial question in your mind may be, will the fence provide the required safety and security for my animals? Because animal enclosures typically have larger fence lines than a yard in the suburbs, the fence’s cost per linear foot must also be considered. These two criteria alone lead many farm and ranch owners to install rail fences. These fences are sturdy and can easily be built in long runs to cover a considerable distance without running up the price tag.

Deciding which fence to install should not be all about logistics, though. There are also aesthetics to consider. Some fences, such as split rail, have a rustic appearance. They are meant to be more natural, which might be precisely what you want. However, if you prefer a cleaner look with a similar form and function, you may want to consider a ranch rail fence instead. There are many design variations from which to choose as you try to find something that will both corral your animals and enhance the visual appeal of your property. It should be a fence that you will enjoy looking at when you survey your property.

The most basic ranch rail fencing consists of square posts, typically 5 inches thick, connected by 2×6 or 2×8 rails running parallel to the ground. Depending on the use, you may choose to install anywhere from two to four horizontal rails in your fence. Using only two rails provides the least amount of visual obstruction. It creates a boundary, without getting in the way of your view. However, if you are using the fence to keep in animals that need more visual cues to recognize their boundaries, you might want to install three or four rails. More rails may also be better for enclosures housing smaller animals, who might slip out otherwise. Adding wire mesh to the backside of the fence is another option to keep animals on the right side of the fence.


The posts provide the basic structure of the fence and are often a cue for the rest of the fence’s style. If simple is your look, square posts with a flat top are certainly acceptable and lend a very classic look to the fence. If you want to add a little more personality to your fence, you can choose posts that have a different shaped top to them. The options vary from adding a simple flat or pyramid-shaped cap, to more ornate acorn or gothic style caps. This small change can be the first step to changing the feel of the whole fence.


While traditional ranch rail fences have all the rails oriented parallel to the ground, there are other popular variations to this arrangement. Possibly the most subtle variation is to substitute square rails for the typical 2×6’s and rotate them 45 degrees towards one side of the fence. Thus, the rails are mounted in a diamond orientation. This type of fence is called a diamond ranch rail fence.

Another popular variation is the crossbuck ranch rail fence. In this type of fence, the top and bottom rails remain in the horizontal position, as in the traditional fence. The two middle rails are crossed to make an “X” through the central space between each post. A crossbuck fence can easily be identified by the repeated X-shaped arrangement of the middle rails. By crossing these two rails in this fashion, the fence begins to take on a little more of a solid panel appearance, while maintaining good visibility through the fence. You can add an extra horizontal rail on the top, bottom, or both for more interest. You could also alternate which board in the cross is on top from one panel to the next. Examine the options and pick the one that you like best.


Choosing the color of your fence is where you get to add the finishing touch. While allowing the fence to age naturally is an option, we recommend sealing the wood. Sealed wood will hold up longer through the hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. If you’re based in Colorado like we are, this will come in handy.

If you like your fence’s natural appearance, choose a sealer that preserves that color without covering up the natural beauty. If you want to make the fence stand out more, a dark or light color stain will stand out against the landscape around it.

Ranch rail fences are an excellent, functional choice for many homeowners, but they can also be an attractive option. You can personalize your fence’s style and color to match the aesthetic that you want for your property.

Questions? Contact us at Cedar Fence Direct. We’ve been in the fencing business for a long time and can give you guidance as you tackle big decisions about the function and look of your fence.