The British had hoped not to become embroiled in a frontier conflict but they soon were drawn in. From 1799 to 1836 three so-called frontier wars between the Xhosa and the frontier Boers erupted. As was the case before 1795, the conflicts were always over cattle and land and there was never any declaration of war. The hostilities could be seen more as an intensification of raids than wars with clear-cut objectives. The wars intensified rather than settled the conflict.
Invariably the conflicts were triggered by internal power struggles within Xhosa and Boer society respectively. In the early years of British rule there was still a distinct power vacuum. Consequently, leaders pursuing narrow objectives could easily upset the precarious power balance and fragile stability by reckless acts. But soon another disruptive force appeared on the scene: governors and senior military officers who did not understand the complexities of the frontier conflict and rushed in to impose what seemed to them to be solutions.