5 Great Alternatives to Barbed Wire Fencing

Barbed wire with a red X through it.

Barbed wire is a fairly cheap and easy way to outline your property, keep animals contained, and deter trespassers. However this fencing material can sometimes cause more harm than good, and it’s not allowed everywhere. So I think it’s a good idea we explore some really great alternatives to barbed wire and find a solution that would work better for your needs.  

Below are 5 alternatives for barbed wire fencing that each hold a lot of potential. Some are better for animal control, while others will be more effective if you’re looking to deter trespassers. Make sure to read the pros and cons of each so you can choose the option that is best for you!

1. Electric Fence

Electric fencing in a field.

One of the most popular fencing methods for controlling animals is an electric fence. Many people use these fences to keep dogs, cattle, horses, and other animals within a specified area. Compared to other alternatives, electric fences are lightweight and fairly easy to set up (as long as you have a reliable power source).

They are also an effective deterrent for animals that don’t cause any long-term damage. Barbed wire can rip and puncture the skin, leading to infections and open wounds. An electric fence simply gives the animal a non-lethal shock that lets them know to stay away from that area! 

It could also deter trespassers, however, most people can find a way to get around electric fences or shut them off. An electric fence also has the potential to snap or fall over, depending on the supports that are used. 

A metal framework with multiple electrified lines is the setup that will probably last the longest, but some people get by with just one or two strands wrapped around wooden posts. It all depends on the size of your property. You can deep-dive into if a barbed wire or an electric fence is better in your situation here: Electric Fence vs. Barbed Wire: What Works Best.

Lightweight.Must have a power source.
Causes no lasting damage.More maintenance is required.
Fairly inexpensive.Could be flimsy (depending on the construction).

2. Steel Fence

Steel fencing with spades on top.

In some cases, you don’t need a painful way to keep animals inside a specified area. If a fence is tall and sturdy enough to withstand the force of an animal leaning against it, it doesn’t necessarily need barbed wire as an extra deterrent. 

This is why steel fences are sometimes used as an alternative to barbed wire. They are extremely sturdy and can withstand physical force as well as much of the natural corrosion that all fencing materials must endure.

Treated or painted steel can be fairly resistant to rusting and it can last for several years, or even decades, before it needs to be repaired or replaced. On the other hand, it is quite heavy and it doesn’t come cheap! Galvanized steel is expensive, especially if you need to use it to cover a large area. In fact, this is probably the most expensive fencing option on this list.

If cost is an issue, you might consider using aluminum fencing instead. While it’s not as strong as a steel fence, it’s still a fairly sturdy material that is much cheaper. It won’t rust either or corrode and can last much longer than steel.

Steel fencing can also be a great deterrent against human trespassers as well. Many steel fences consist of straight, tall bars that are fairly difficult to climb. They can also be pointed or even curved and pointed at the top making them very difficult for a person to climb.

Extremely strong and durable.Very expensive.
Effective against people and animals.Heavy and difficult to move.
Requires little/no maintenance.May require professional installation.

3. Razor Wire

Loops of razor wire on top of chain link fencing.

Barbed wire is a pretty effective deterrent for most human trespassers, but most people can avoid it if they know it’s there. It can be bypassed by using thick gloves or wire cutters, so a truly dedicated intruder could find a way to get past it. It’s actually one of the many types of barbed wire that exist.

So if you need something a little more intimidating to a human, you can turn to razor wire. This material is usually sold in coils that can be affixed to the tops of fences. It isn’t a suitable material for an entire fence, but it can be a good way to make sure nothing climbs over the existing structure.

This material is made from galvanized steel and doesn’t require any maintenance. It can last for years with little/no upkeep. You will need a professional’s help to install it so you can avoid injuries though. 

Razor wire is incredibly strong and sharp. It can’t easily be cut or crushed without help from a specialized tool, so most people will leave it alone. While barbed wire causes puncture wounds, razor wire is more likely to slash. It can easily cut through fabric, skin, and muscle so intruders will generally give it a wide berth. 

On the downside, this means it’s not usually the best fencing to use if you’re trying to keep animals at bay. Razor wire is good for home security and is often used around military compounds and prisons. But if animals run into it, they can become ensnared and can severely injure or kill themselves. 

Extremely durable and long-lasting.Not good for animals—can injure or kill.
A little goes a long way.Requires professional installation.
More effective deterrent than barbed wire for trespassers.Dangerous for owners to interact with.

4. Woven Wire Fence

Woven steel mesh fencing keeping in livestock (horses).

Woven wire fences are a somewhat flexible choice that generally won’t cause any harm to the animals you are trying to contain. These fences are either designed in a grid pattern or could be similar to chain-link fences. 

Either way, the primary fence structure consists of sturdy metal wires that have been twisted together to form a strong mesh. Because it’s mainly made of wire, these fences are also quite cost-effective.

A woven wire fence is one of the safest options for animals to interact with because it can bend a bit. There is a slight risk of hooves or horns getting caught in the gaps depending on the size of the animal, the specific fencing, and the force used.

TIP: To see if chain-link might be an option over a woven wire fence, see our article Chain link vs. Wire fence: Which is Right for Me?

Depending on the size of the gaps, this type of fence is effective at keeping out predators and pests of varying sizes. The smaller the gap, the fewer animals can get in or out. This type of fencing isn’t as sturdy as others though and it can bend or break if the weave isn’t tight/strong enough. See more about identifying a quality woven wire fence here.

This type of fence is easy to see through, which can be a benefit if you’re trying to keep an eye on your livestock. However, it may also be a drawback if you’re trying to shield your animals from view or prevent them from getting spooked by things like nearby cars or predators.

Lots of size options are available.Prone to bending and breaking.
Not a great deterrent against human trespassers.Large gaps could let animals in or out.
Very inexpensive.Small risk of animals getting ensnared.

5. Wooden Trellis

Wooden trellis on top of a wood privacy fence.

This final alternative might seem a bit unorthodox, but this one comes from the experience of people who have dealt with repeated trespassers. By installing a wooden trellis on top of their existing fence, they were able to add extra height and use a structure that wouldn’t support the weight of a potential intruder. You can see some discussions from those who have used this for deterring trespassers here.

It doesn’t cause any injuries (aside from potential splinters or falling from a tall height) and it can even be an attractive addition to a home or fence. This method wouldn’t help much when it comes to controlling animals unless you’re dealing with jumpers/climbers like goats and you just need to add a little height to an existing fence. 

As a way to keep intruders out of fenced areas though, this solution is quite handy!

Adds height to an existing fence.Can’t be used to form an entire fence.
Doesn’t support the weight of climbers.Not widely available.
Can be an attractive addition while preventing trespassing.Not very useful as an animal deterrent.

Reasons to Avoid Barbed Wire

Barbed wire is a very common material that is used to create or adorn the top of existing fences. Although it does a pretty good job of reminding animals and intruders to stay away, there are certainly a lot of drawbacks. These downsides have caused many people to search for alternatives.

Here are some of the downsides of barbed wire fencing.

  • Rust and Corrosion – Some barbed wire is treated with a rust-resistant coating, but others simply oxidize and become old and rusty very quickly. There’s a handy barbed wire life-expectancy chart here.
  • An On-Going Hazard – If old barbed wire fences are torn down or fall and left to decay, this rusty wire sticks around and becomes a hazard to both human travelers and wildlife.
  • Serious Injuries Can Easily Happen – If anyone cuts themselves on a rusty barbed-wire fence, not only can the initial injury be bad, but they may also need to be treated for tetanus. This is potentially lethal and could turn into a tragedy and/or a lawsuit. See how dangerous barbed wire can be here.
  • Not Visually Appealing – Babed wire is certainly not one of the most visually appealing fencing options out there and can easily make your property look like a prison or military camp. If used on a property where residences are close by, you could also have some issues with your neighbors and/or your local home owner’s association (HOA).
  • Dangerous to Animals – Many animals are also endangered by the use of barbed wire. Livestock animals that get too close can receive a puncture or become ensnared. This can lead to blindness, irritation, and infections. Many smaller wild animals are also affected by barbed wire. Bats are particularly affected as well as several other nocturnal species.

Final Thoughts

While barbed wire certainly has its place in history, there are now many more alternatives to barbed wire both for livestock and for deterring human trespassers. Find one of the alternatives above that works best for you and your situation.

If you want to learn more about any one type of fencing, take a look at the menu of this website and you’ll find plenty of information about all types!

Fence Frenzy

We at Fence Frenzy absolutely love taking on the challenge of building, or even restoring, a fence. Especially elaborate and exotic fence designs that really make us scratch our heads! We're happy to share everything we've learned with you.

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