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  Western Cow Boys
The American West produced many exciting heroes and legends. Gunslingers like Jesse James and Cole Younger, The Dalton Gang; legends like Kit Carson and Calamity Jane bring up images of train robberies, scouting, pioneering, trapping, and gun-fighting cowboy duels. Fascinating women of the wild west, like Annie Oakley (the ultimate cowgirl), Belle Star, Willa Cather, Cattle Kate, Helen Hunt Jackson, and Carry Nation, made a large mark on the Old West as everything from shady characters to leaders (paving the way for women's rights). The American wild west was an extraordinary time and place in American history.

You'll find Old West landmarks, like Tombstone, Arizona and The Alamo, a Texas mission and famous battle, plus tributes to the people like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Daniel Boone, and Sam Houston, who made those sites famous. And then there was Samuel Colt, who made the American Wild West into what we know it today just by developing a gun. This is American history at its finest. Learn about the rough life a western cowboy and how he tended his cattle on the wide-open range and how he wore his cowboy boots, cowboy chaps and bandana while working.
Cowboys and the names of famous horses in western cowboy TV shows and the Western movies, people like Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy. Enjoy an authentic cowboy recipe!

Cowboys played an important role in the settling of the west. Ranching was a big industry and cowboys helped to run the ranches. They herded cattle, repaired fences and buildings, and took care of the horses.

The Cattle Drive

Cowboys often worked on cattle drives. This was when a large herd of cattle was moved from the ranch to a market place where they could be sold. A lot of the original cattle drives went from Texas to the railroads in Kansas.

Cattle drives were tough to work. Cowboys would get up early in the morning and "guide" the herd to the next stopping point for the night. The senior riders got to be at the front of the herd. The junior cowboys had to stay at the back where it was dusty from the large herd.

Cowboys on a cattle drive
There were usually around a dozen cowboys for a good size herd of 3000 cattle. There was also a trail boss, camp cook, and Wrangler. The Wrangler was usually a junior cowboy who kept track of the extra horses.

The Roundup
Each spring and fall the Cowboys would work on the "roundup". This was when the Cowboys would bring in all the cattle from the open range. Cattle would roam freely much of the year and then the Cowboys would need to bring them in. To tell what cattle belonged to their ranch, the cattle would have a special mark burned into them called a "brand."

Horse and Saddle
The most important possession of any cowboy was his horse and saddle. The saddles were often custom made and, next to his horse, was probably the most valuable item a cowboy owned. Horses were so important that horse stealing was considered a hanging offense!

Cowboys wore special clothing that helped them with their jobs. They wore large 10-gallon hats to protect them from the sun and the rain. They wore special cowboy boots with pointed toes that helped them to slip in and out of the stirrups when riding a horse. This was especially important if they fell so they wouldn't get dragged by their horse.

Many cowboys wore chaps on the outsides of their legs to help protect from sharp bushes and cacti that their horse may rub up against. Another important piece of clothing was the bandana which could be used to protect them from the dust kicked up by cattle.

Cowboy Code
The cowboys of the Old West had an unwritten code that they lived by. The code included such rules as being courteous, always saying "howdy", don't wave at a man on a horse (you should nod), never ride another man's horse without his permission, always help someone in need, and never put on another man's hat.

The rodeo became a sports competition with events based around the daily jobs of a cowboy. Events include calf roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, bareback bronco riding, and barrel racing.

Interesting Facts about Cowboys
When living on a ranch, cowboys lived in a bunkhouse with a lot of other cowboys.
Cowboys often sang songs at night for entertainment and to soothe the cattle. Some of the songs they sang included "In the Sweet By and By" and "The Texas Lullaby".
Other names for cowboys include cowpunchers, cowpokes, buckaroos, and cowhands.
A new person to the Old West was called a tenderfoot, pilgrim, or greenhorn.
The harmonica was a popular musical instrument to Cowboys because it is so small and easy to carry.
The average cowboy in the Old West made between $25 and $40 a month.