What Did A Typical Cowboy Diet Consist Of In The Old West? - The Daily Meal (2023)


What Did A Typical Cowboy Diet Consist Of In The Old West? - The Daily Meal (1)

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ByAmadea Tanner|May 22, 2023 7:25 pm EST

Cowboy diet and lifestyle took inspiration from the peoples that had been working the land long before Americans started moving west. Living in a time before refrigeration, cowboys relied on ingredients that could last for months — or even years — without spoiling, and consequently borrowed many Native American food preservation methods. While foraging along the trail for herbs, berries, and even bird eggs was common practice, there were many staples cowboys packed with them. If they weren't elegant, meals on the trail were certainly hearty, since they had to keep herding crews going for long, arduous, dusty days full of exertion.

Cowboys also took cultural and culinary inspiration from Mexican vaqueros. Experts at herding cattle long beforesettlers ventured west, vaqueros developed many of the tools necessary for the trade, like chaps and lassos, and in the early days of the west, trained many cowboys-to-be. Having herded cattle for hundreds of years, these skilled horsemen were veterans of living and cooking on the move. Recipes for their wholesome fare were another of the many things cowboys adopted directly from the vaquero lifestyle.

As for what cowboys actually did eat, Dr. Richard W. Slatta, professor emeritus of history at North Carolina State University, recounts one concise summary of Old West fare as described by Oklahoma cowboy Puny Martin, "Beef, beans, taters. That's what you had to have." Some cowboys were lucky to have a little more variety than that while on cattle drives, but options were still fairly limited.

Cows made the cowboy

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The role of the cowboy developed alongside the formation of a ranching economy in the Americas, which is an industry with colonial roots. Spanish settlers brought cows across the Atlantic on some of the first ships that berthed in the New World, and cattle rearing was especially successful in the Southwest, in parts of Mexico and Texas,where vaqueros reigned.

Texas became the hotspot for a cattle industry, though before the Civil War, cattle were raised more for their skin and fat than their potential as a meat source. Their hide was used to make leather — a versatile material — though their fat had even more adaptability once boiled into tallow, which, as a malleable substance, had many potential uses.These uses included cooking, making soap, and molding into candles — an especially important commodity in a world that hadn't yet discovered electricity.

The advancement of railroad networks around the same time as the Civil War created a convenient means of supplying a growing demand for meat, and the wide ranges and open prairies of the American West were ideal locations for raising cattle. This culmination of innovation and consumption in the mid-19th century set the stage for the cowboy to become an important figure in the American economy and the subsequent push west.

(Video) What Early Pioneers Ate To Survive The Old West

Chuckwagon fare changed the cowboy diet

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In the early days of the West, cowboys only ate whatever they could carry in their saddlebags or kill on site. But as a demand for beef grew with a growing and migrating population seeking gold and manifest destiny, the skeleton crews that had previously worked with cattle grew into large-scale operations to accommodate a rapidly expanding industry.

The cowboys' job, as their name suggests, was to herd cattle, a rough and unrewarding occupation that entailed pushing large herds on cattle drives from middle-of-nowhere ranches to central markets, auctions, or railroad depots, where cows would be sold and transported. Passing through vast expanses of wild lands, there was nowhere to sleep or eat but under the open sky. This job came with no Old West glamor, but camping overnight took on a bit of home comfort with the introduction of the chuckwagon.

Attributed to Charles Goodnight, this mobile kitchen and pantry consisted of a revamped army supply wagon that would travel alongside the cowboys on the cattle trail. Equipped with cast iron kettles, pans, and dutch ovens, and pulled by a team of up to six oxen, the chuckwagon didn't travel light, but it made fresh, hot meals possible. This home-cookedchuck (the Cowboy Glossary's term for "food") was a big step up from the preserved stuff cowboys previously relied on. Dining together in the afternoons and evenings en plein air, cowboys could enjoy more camaraderie, and hearty fare made for happier workers.

The cook made the team

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Perhaps in the humor of the cowboys' rough and tumble ways, they had many names of reverence for the cook who rounded out their crew. "Cookie" was a popular appellation, but Dr. Slatta, suggests many more inventive names made their way into the cowboy lexicon, such as "bean master, pot rustler, biscuit shooter, dough puncher, grub slinger, [and] coosie (from the Spanish term for cook, cocinero)." Cooks earned cowboys' respect beyond their wholesome grub by keeping longer days than the cowboys themselves. They woke up the earliest to prepare breakfast for their team, and were always on the job. As soon as one meal was through, the cook would move on to a new location to set up the kitchen again for the next meal. "Dinner" was lunchtime, and "supper" was in the evening.

But despite their required culinary aptitude in efficiently working wonders to keep meals interesting with limited ingredients, cooks on the cattle trail wore many more than a mere chef's hat. They also carried first aid supplies in the chuckwagon, taking on the unofficial role of doctor or veterinarian when duty called. Because they kept a cattle crew going, the title of cook was a position of esteem and influence; accordingly, cooks were paid higher than cowboys. A good cook could make a cattle drive a success, just as a bad cook might deter cowboys from seeking work with a particular ranch.

Coffee was taken strong and barefooted

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Coffee was a daily necessity in the West, but because green coffee beanskept best, whipping up a simple brew on the trail wasn't exactly simple. Beans had to be roasted and ground first — that is, until two enterprising upstarts started supplying roasted and even pre-ground coffee. While James A. Folger dominated the market of gold miners along the west coast, John Arbuckle Jr. invented the brand that fueled the frontier. Arbuckle's innovation for preserving coffee beans included a trick that gave them superior flavor too.HistoryNet explains that while roasting the beans, he coated them with a mixture of sugar, eggs, and Irish moss, making Arbuckle's blend so popular his name became interchangeable with coffee itself.

Coffee was an obligatory tool in the cowboy's arsenal, an essential pick-me-up for a job that necessitated early mornings, long days, and frequent all-nighters. Before chuckwagons, many cowboys often carried a coffee pot in their saddlebags, but once cooks joined on the cattle trail, coffee was boiling constantly in five-gallon pots.

True West Magazine reports cowboys took their coffee strong enough to "float a horseshoe," and whether for convenience or preference, usually drank it barefooted (black). To ensure coffee was as strong as possible, cooks added new grounds to old grounds until the coffee pot had reached capacity. "The men half lived on coffee," mentions of one cook, Oliver Nelson's, writings. Coffee was the only thing that kept cowboys awake and vigilant through night shifts and bad weather.

(Video) What Native American Tribes Were Eating In the Old West

Common breads were sourdough and hardtack

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Sourdough was the bread of preference for trail outfits equipped with a chuckwagon and cook willing to rise early with the sourdough starter. Bread and Basil states that starter, made from a mixture of water and flour left to ferment, generates lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast, forming a natural yeast culture which has versatile potential as a leavening agent for various breads. Once ready, the starter gets combined with the proper water and flour proportions to form dough. Though a bit meticulous since the starter required regular tending, this was a portable way to bake bread on the trail. Sourdough was also used to make biscuits and flapjacksin dutch ovens and skillets, giving an array of cowboy baked goods a tantalizing sour tint.

Though much less appetizing, hardtack was another prevalent bread source in cowboys' diets, but many would probably debate its edibility. Also called "hot rocks," these biscuits were a simple, utilitarian concoction of flour, water, and salt. Cooked until no moisture remained, these biscuits had a long shelf life, remaining digestible for months, if not years. But hardtack was so hard that eating it was difficult without the aid of milk, water, or coffee to soften the bread. Though this concept of shelf stable biscuits dates back to legions of soldiers and crews of sailors that predate the American West, cowboy cooks found a new use for hardtack as a stew thickener, which was probably its most palatable form.

Easy access to fresh meat

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Driving cattle day and night meant that beef could be a fallback food source for cowboys, and a fresh steak or beef roast made for a luxurious trailside supper. But fresh meat could only be eaten when there were enough workers and resources to consume the whole animal. "We could not keep ourselves in fresh meat like a cow outfit does on a roundup for the reason that we had a smaller crew than the average roundup uses," Dr. Slatta notes one cowboy's recount. "Another reason was that our animals were of large size, and with the weather so very hot, meat would not have kept fresh." Dr. Slatta further emphasizes a saying among stingier ranchers on the range: "Only a fool eats his own beef!"

For these reasons, preserved beef was more often consumed, as meat didn't last long in the wilderness with no form of refrigeration, but beef jerky could last a significantly long time. While perfectly edible on its own as an easy source or protein, jerky was also often included in stews, which could soften it back to a meaty consistency and contribute texture and flavor to a dutch oven blend.

If not beef, there was ample opportunity to hunt for other forms of game on the range, which contributed some variety to the cowboy diet. Deer and buffalo were occasionally encountered, as were smaller animals, like hares and possums, that could easily get cooked into a stew or eaten à la carte.

Calf fries: a trail delicacy and tradition

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Calf fries were a particular meat delicacy only available at a certain time of year. Among their many cheeky nicknames, calf fries are also known ironically as Rocky Mountain oysters or prairie oysters. Calf fries were harvested in the spring, when it was time to castrate male calves during roundup. Castration was a means of controlling the cattle population and preventing the aggressive behavior characteristic of uncastrated bulls, but was also believed to result in more tender beef. The leftover testicles from the process became a prime example of nothing going to waste, as has always been the cowboy way.

Though the most likely nutritional benefit calf fries offered was a novelty serving of protein, cowboys swore by calf fries as a source of good health. Waggoner Cowboys explains that cowboys believed eating this part from a healthy animal would in turn lend to good health of whoever ate it. Whether or not this was true, calf fries were also considered an aphrodisiac.

Though this delicacy may have been a historic, savory treat, they are a tradition that lives on. While the Old West calf fries were usually cooked over coals, today's most popular variations are often barbecued ordeep-fried and served with a dipping sauce.

(Video) The rules of cowboy cooking

Sowbelly and overland trout

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In the absence of beef, it was pork that provided the majority of meat in cowboy diets, particularly when the Civil War contributed to a beef shortage. Pork in various forms lent well to preserving, and its most ubiquitous form was sowbelly. Also known as salt pork, sowbelly is named for the part of the animal it comes from, and through the preservation method of salting could last a while. Salting entailed drying the meat in layers of salt, which was convenient for immediate preservation. But, in order to be consumed, it required a long soak in water to expel enough salt to render the meat not only palatable, but safe to eat. An alternative and historic salt pork preservation method was to soak the meat in a barrel of brine, which achieved the same effect while keeping the meat more tender. Once cooked, it was a popular meat for breakfast.

Slightly different from pork belly and not quite as prevalent on the trail as salt pork, "overland trout" was slang for the more thinly-sliced bacon, which Recipe Goldmine explains was a riff on the Old West term for pigs and hogs. With abundant fat and grease, either pork variation had a stick-to-the-ribs effect — the most important aspect of cowboy cuisine.

The trailside benefits of airtights

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Dr. Slatta speaks of another food group that entered the cowboy diet with the introduction of the chuckwagon — "airtights" were the cowboy name for canned goods, which enabled cowboys to enjoy some more alimentary variety. Canned products, most commonly peaches, tomatoes, corn, and milk, were still a fairly recent innovation in the days of the Old West, as they had been initially invented overseas early in the 19th Century in an attempt to keep military divisions fortified on more than jerky and hardtack. Though they had not yet reached optimal convenience with the invention of the can-opener, airtights were worth the inconvenience of opening via hammer and knife for the options they afforded on the trail, and the metal cans were made from a helpfully durable material.

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Canned goods meant that near-fresh fruit could supplement the dried variants which were the only access to fruit cowboys otherwise had, either eating dried fruit on its own or stewing it into some form of dessert — a true luxury out in the wild. Canned fruits went beyond the commonly driedapples and prunes, and even offered their own nutritional benefits specific to trailside living. The acidity of canned tomatoes were particularly beneficial to combat dust inhalation.

Taters and whistle-berries

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While some cowboys working ranches might eat more potatoes, "whistle-berries" (one of many cowboy names for beans) were the primary vegetable available to cowboys on the cattle trail, and made up most of their meals. Author Natalie Bright chronicles trail driver Lee D. Leverett's account of this cowboy staple, "[The cook] could boil, bake, and burn beans, but no matter how he dished out the stuff we lined our flue with the whistle-berries. Beef and beans were the main flue liners. We would have beans and beef for breakfast, then beef and beans for dinner, and at supper time we would get some more beef and beans."

Beans were another legacy of the cowboy lifestyle borrowing much from Mexican influence — among their other alternate titles were frijoles and "Mexican strawberries." Dried beans were light to transport, inherently well-preserved, and able to withstand the rough conditions on the trail. Filling, versatile, fibrous, and full of protein, they were an all-encompassing source of nutrients for the cowboy diet that were included into many dishes. Beans could easily be cooked overnight in a dutch oven, and made a hearty addition to soups and stews. Beans eaten on their own were often made tastier by adding molasses to the water while they were cooking — an early version of baked beans,one of many dishes that got their start in the Old West.

Dutch oven delights

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While beans may have made up most cowboy soups and stews, cooks managed to work wonders with their dutch ovens, and chili was a cowboy favorite. With a heritage of Aztec legends and telepathic trances instigating chili's genesis, the dish's exact origin,somewhere in the American Southwest, remains steeped in myth and mystery. More than likely, cowboys cooked it up as a means of using the two ingredients they usually had in ample supply — meat and beans. What's Cooking America notes that Spanish priests of the 19th century warned against the aphrodisiac properties inspired by the chile peppers used to season chili, and discouraged consumption of the dish, calling chili itself the "soup of the devil."

Though also called chili con carne,there is insufficient evidence to suggest that chili was conceived south of the border. But another meat-based stew takes direct influence from Mexican cuisine. Son of a gun stew is a cowboy spin on the Mexican dish menudo, a "soup of the poor" that doesn't let anything go to waste. Making use of all the spare parts from a cow, Dr. Slatta recounts Ramon F. Adams' description of the dish, "you throw ever'thing in the pot but the hair, horns, and holler." Including things like tripe, tongue, liver, and marrow gives the stew a distinct flavor, and rumor has it that this unique concoction is a bonafide hangover cure.

Cornmeal in many forms

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Though cowboys actually interacted with Native Americans much less than dramatized Hollywood westerns might have us believe, they did benefit from native culinary methods honed after centuries of living off the land. Cornmeal, made from corn that had been dried and ground, was one ingredient borrowed from Native American cuisine that made a convenient addition to chuckwagon pantries. Another food source that kept and transported well, cornmeal could easily be transformed with minimal doctoring.

Cooks used cornmeal to thicken stews, but it was by far best enjoyed in baking. By simply mixing it with water and salt, cornmeal became a pliable dough for biscuits or flat cakes, and with a little extra oomph in a cast iron skillet, could be baked into cornbread. As a wholesome side dish, its slightly sweet taste paired well with savory or spicy dutch oven stews, making cowboy culture the likely origin of the chili and cornbread combo that has become an American tradition.

(Video) What Native Americans Actually Ate Before Europeans Came


What Did A Typical Cowboy Diet Consist Of In The Old West? - The Daily Meal? ›

Along the trail, the staples of a cowboy diet consisted of beans, hard biscuits, dried meat, dried fruit, and coffee. Occasionally, a type of bread known as pan de campo (or “camp bread”), which was cooked on a skillet was also available. These along with a little bit of sugar were the staples of the chuckwagon pantry.

What did cowboys eat for breakfast in the 1800s? ›

Each morning, the cowboys would cook breakfast in cast iron grills, skillets, and pots over a hot fire. Meals often consisted of hot coffee, a large pot of beans, and biscuits that were baked in a cast iron pot and slathered with lard and gravy.

What did cowboys really eat on the trail? ›

Along the trail, cowboys ate meals consisting of beef, beans, biscuits, dried fruit and coffee. But as cattle drives increased in the 1860s cooks found it harder and harder to feed the 10 to 20 men who tended the cattle. That's when Texas Ranger-turned-cattle rancher Charles Goodnight created the chuckwagon.

What kind of plates did cowboys use? ›

The table was bare, the plates and cups were of tin, and the coffee was in a pot so black that night seemed day beside it. The meat was in a stewpan, and the milk was in a tin pail. The tomatoes were fresh from a can, and the biscuits were fresh from the oven.

How did cowboys cook their food? ›

The Dutch oven was often the preferred cooking tool. The cook held great power, meaning that cowboys would do favors for the cook so they could get a little extra food in the evenings. The cook had so much influence in the group that even the mighty trail boss often deferred to him.

What did cowboys eat for breakfast lunch and dinner? ›

Cowboys in the United States relished similar "chuck" (also called grub or chow). Canned and dried fruit, "overland trout" (bacon), beans, fresh meat, soda biscuits, tea, and coffee. Breakfast might include eggs or salt pork. Eggs, sometimes shipped west for considerable distances, sometimes went bad.

Did cowboys really eat a lot of beans? ›

Beans were a staple on the frontier.

Cowboy beans (also known as chuck wagon beans) is a bean dish popular in the southwestern United States. The dish consists of pinto beans and ground beef in a sweet and tangy sauce.

What is a typical cowboy dinner? ›

Cowboy dinner is a hearty casserole of flavorful beef, corn and beans topped with soft, fluffy cornbread and a layer of cheese. So delicious! This easy, comfort food casserole has been a family favorite for over 20 years! After that long, you know the recipe has to be a keeper!

What food did saloons serve? ›

Offerings ranged from cold cuts, breads, pretzels, smoked herrings, dill pickles, potato chips, salted peanuts, and a host of other salty fare. There was a method to the madness of the salted meats, cheeses, and finger foods. Salty food makes one thirsty, and selling alcoholic beverages was their big money maker.

What did cowboys drink in saloons? ›

In the Old West, when alcohol was easily accessible and a mainstay, the drinks of choice were often whiskey, beer, and sometimes wine. Whiskey was the preferred drink of cowboys who could rustle up the hard liquor since it was cheap and gave a good kick.

What desserts did cowboys eat? ›

Typical Day's Food the Crew Ate on the Trail:

Occasional Dessert: stewed dried fruit, spiced cake made without eggs or butter, dried fruit pies, or spotted pup (rice and raisins). *Northern cowboys were more likely to get beef with their meals.

What did cowboys sleep on? ›

In wet weather he took his hat, rope, boots, and spurs to bed with him; in cold weather his bridle came too. (Wet boots were hard to put on, and a wet rope was stiff and hard to handle; a cold bridle meant a cold bit, and the horse would fight it.)

Did cowboys drink coffee? ›

Cowboys enjoyed black, strong coffee. After the first round was poured, they would add more coffee grounds to the pot to keep it strong. Brewing the coffee was a way for the men to relax and catch up at the end of their long days.

How did cowboys keep meat from spoiling? ›

They placed the meat on a layer of salt and covered it with more salt, sometimes mixed with pepper and brown sugar. Salt draws moisture out of meat and thus stops the process of rotting. Some people later stored the meat buried in shelled corn, because the corn was a good insulator.

How many meals a day did cowboys eat? ›

On most days, cowboys were served two meals out of the chuckwagon: breakfast and the evening supper, with a noon meal usually taken horseback and served from a cowboy's saddle bags.

How did cowboys keep meat fresh? ›

Brine was saltwater that was traditionally "strong enough to float an egg." Preserved in this way, homesteaders could keep meats for weeks and months at a time.

What did Thomas Jefferson eat for dinner? ›

Congressman Manasseh Cutler of Massachusetts wrote this of the dinner menu he attended at the White House on February 6, 1802: “Dined at the President's—Rice soup, round of beef, turkey, mutton, ham, loin of veal, cutlets of mutton or veal, fried eggs, fried beef, a pie called macaroni.”

What steaks did cowboys eat? ›

As with most things in the tumultuous west, it was more a case of getting what you're given rather than ordering from the a la carte menu so a cowboy steak can be pretty much any cut you can get your hands on but, traditionally, it would be a bone-in cut most often the ribeye.

What was the average age of a cowboy on a cattle drive? ›

The average cowboy was 16 to 30 years old. He was paid very little money (about $1 a day). The work was often tedious. Much of the country where the cowboys worked was unfenced "open range," where ranchers grazed their cattle.

What is a cowboy supper? ›

cowboy supper (plural cowboy suppers) (Northern Ireland) A meal of sausages, baked beans, and chips or mashed potatoes.

What are biscuits that cowboys eat? ›

Hardtack: Not quite bread, note quite a biscuit

Having been around since the Crusades, the version of hardtack most commonly found on the American frontier was created in 1801 by Josiah Bent. Bent called his creation a “water cracker” that contained only two ingredients, water and flour.

Did cowboys eat bacon? ›

Bacon was a staple on trail rides and at line camps. The cowboys were actually eating “sowbelly.” It was pork fat from the belly, and perhaps the back and sides, of a hog carcass, cured with salt. Sowbelly could last a long time without spoiling.

What vegetables did cowboys eat? ›

Beans, biscuits, potatoes and fruit were popular

'His first experience of pemmican' by Harry Bullock-Webster, 1874-1880. Beans and potatoes were also by far the two most common vegetables in the old west. They could be cooked quickly and added to a number of dishes, like stews.

What was side meat in the Old West? ›

noun Chiefly Midland and Southern U.S. salt pork and bacon taken from the sides of a hog.

What did horses eat in the Wild West? ›

Horses in the 1800s were used for war, transportation, farm work, mail delivery, hunting, and sport. These horses burned a lot of calories, and yet the primary feeds for these horses working 8-10 hours a day was hay and chaff (a mixture of hay and chopped straw).

What did a saloon girl do? ›

Starved for female companionship, the saloon girl would sing for the men, dance with them, and talk to them – inducing them to remain in the bar, buying drinks, and patronizing the games.

What was a popular drink in the Wild West? ›

Also popular was Cactus Wine, made from a mix of tequila and peyote tea, and Mule Skinner made with whiskey and blackberry liquor. The house rotgut was often 100 proof, though it was sometimes cut by the barkeep with turpentine, ammonia, gunpowder, or cayenne.

Why did saloons have swinging doors? ›

The style of the doors was praised by saloon owners as they let fresh air in and smoke out while allowing a cross breeze to cold the air. They also were able to maintain some privacy by having empty doors while still enticing people to come in when they hear the laughter and music.

What soda did cowboys drink? ›

History. Sarsaparilla was popular in the United States in the 19th century. According to advertisements for patent medicines of the period, it was considered to be a remedy for skin and blood problems. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink notes that it evokes images of "languid belles and parched cowboys".

What kind of Whisky did cowboys drink? ›

So what were they drinking back then? Some popular whiskey nicknames from the era offer a glimpse: mountain howitzer, coffin varnish, chain-lightning, strychnine, and tangleleg—none of which sound very appetizing. Cowboys never had a reputation for being very sophisticated connoisseurs.

How much was a glass of beer in 1870? ›

In 1870, a glass of beer cost about 10¢, about $1.77 today.

What candy did cowboys eat? ›

Peppermints seemed to be a favorite cowboy candy in the Old West, when available. They were tasty, portable, and at least the cowboys thought they covered up the smell of other vices. And they provided other uses too.

What sweets did pioneers eat? ›

As for desserts — they were simple, but many and varied. There were apple dump- lings, rice and bread puddings, soft molasses cookies, sugar jumbles, and mincemeat, pumpkin, dried apple, or custard pies. On special occasions we might have lemon pie. It was not necessary to skimp on eggs or milk.

Did cowboys eat boiled eggs? ›

In addition, cowboys would typically supplement their meals with an alcoholic beverage, such as beer or whiskey. Salted pork and beef, milk, and eggs were also typically consumed, depending on the cowboys' resources.

What did cowboys fear the most? ›

Most dangerous were river crossings and stampedes. Cattle often balked from entering rivers, and had to be hazed across; as most cowboys couldn't swim, the fear of drowning wasn't limited to the animals. Stampedes were even more fearful, because a slip by horse or rider meant death.

Why don t cowboys put their hats on a bed? ›

Never set your cowboy hat on a bed, which brings on an argument, bad luck, injury, or even death. The roots of this famous superstition are hotly debated. One theory is that a person's hat was often placed on top of their coffin, and no one wanted to conjure up that image in their bedroom.

What did cowboys use for a bed roll? ›

What is a Cowboy Bedroll? The make-up and design of the classic cowboy bedroll was simple; wool blankets or bedding wrapped in a canvas tarp that usually had buckles or ties that would connect the two canvas flaps together. The bedroll could then be rolled up and strapped tight with a rope or leather strap or belt.

What's the secret ingredient in cowboy coffee? ›

Contrary to popular belief cowboy coffee isn't strong, it isn't thick and it's the simplest thing in the world to make because it's got three ingredients: coffee, water, fire. The biggest secret is in the boiling. When you boil coffee you take the acid out of the bean.

What brand of coffee did cowboys drink? ›

Arbuckles' Ariosa Blend became so popular in the Old West that most cowboys didn't even know that there was any other. Arbuckles' Coffee was prominent in such infamous cow towns as Dodge City and Tombstone. To many of the older cowboys, Arbuckles' Ariosa Blend is still known as the Original Cowboy Coffee.

Did cowboys drink whiskey every day? ›

Yep, a lot of whiskey was consumed. There was good whiskey and there was bad. Or, as some would say, “It was all good, but some was better.” Other than church's, saloons were about the only place where men could gather and socialize.

How did cowboys jerk meat? ›

Cowboys made their beef jerky by cutting cow meat into thin strips. While flank steak is the primary cut of beef used today for commercially made jerky, in the 1800s cowboys were far less discriminatory about the cut of beef they used. If it was edible, they used it.

How did cowboys keep the cattle calm at night? ›

Western Cowboys really did sing cowboy songs to the cattle at night. Singing songs like “Old Dan Tucker,” “Nearer My God To Thee,” “In the Sweet By and By” or “The Texas Lullaby” soothed jittery cows, which helped reduce the likelihood of stampede. Thunder and lightning were the most common causes of cattle stampedes.

Did cowboys put meat under their saddles? ›

After drying, it sometimes was stored under the saddle on a horse so the meat would be tenderized as the rider bumped along. The rugged chews are enjoyed mainly as a grab-and-go snack these days; but palatable, adaptable and portable cured meat is still the sustenance of trailblazers even in the new millenium.

Were humans meant to eat 3 meals a day? ›

Three meals a day: An origin story

In ancient Rome, the custom was to eat one large meal, plus two small, light meals. In the US, our eating habits are now typically organized around our workdays or school days. But cultural norms aside, there's no scientific reason for you to eat exactly three meals every day.

Did humans eat 3 meals a day? ›

By the late 18th Century most people were eating three meals a day in towns and cities, says Day. By the early 19th Century dinner for most people had been pushed into the evenings, after work when they returned home for a full meal. Many people, however, retained the traditional "dinner hour" on a Sunday.

How many miles did cowboys ride a day? ›

How far was a day's ride in the Old West era? The distance would depend on the terrain, but a normal day's ride would be 30 to 40 miles. On hilly terrain, a horse could make 25 to 30 miles. If the land was mountainous, one might go 15 to 20 miles.

How did they smoke meat in the old days? ›

In the past, smokers would consist of a room made of stone where meat would hang from the ceiling. A fire would be used to provide smoke in the room which would dry out the meat and preserve it for some time. Today, smoked meat is done with a smoker, which can be small or large in size.

What did Mexican cowboys eat? ›

The categories in the Linn-San Manuel Cook-Off represent the cornerstones of the cooking style native to the mesquite-dotted deserts and ranchlands straddling the Rio Grande: fajitas, chili, frijoles (beans), cabrito, carne guisada, beef and pork ribs, and baked goods (including a vaquero corn bread often studded with ...

Did Old West Saloons serve food? ›

Free lunch

It was a tradition once common in saloons in many places in the United States, with the phrase appearing in U.S. literature from about 1870 to the 1920s. These establishments included a "free" lunch, varying from rudimentary to quite elaborate, with the purchase of at least one drink.

What did pioneers eat for breakfast? ›

Beans, cornmeal mush, Johnnycakes or pancakes, and coffee were the usual breakfast. Fresh milk was available from the dairy cows that some families brought along, and pioneers took advantage go the rough rides of the wagon to churn their butter.

What did cowboys eat in the 1800s? ›

Lunch/Dinner: roast beef*, boiled potatoes, beans, brown gravy, light bread or biscuits, and coffee. Occasional Dessert: stewed dried fruit, spiced cake made without eggs or butter, dried fruit pies, or spotted pup (rice and raisins). *Northern cowboys were more likely to get beef with their meals.

What dessert did cowboys eat? ›

Dried apples, raisins and apricots were common, but berries and prunes also were available. In addition to eating it plain, dried fruit reconstituted in water with crumbled biscuits formed the basis of simple steamed cobblers and puddings.

What do cowboys drink? ›

In the Old West, cowboys would drink whiskey, beer, sarsaparilla, or coffee, if visiting a nearby saloon. While working on the prairie, though, cowboys would simply drink water or coffee.

How were saloon girls paid in the Old West? ›

Many were widows or needy women of good morals, forced to earn a living in an era that offered few means for women to do so. Earning as much as $10 per week, most saloon girls also made a commission from the drinks they sold. Whiskey sold to the customer was generally marked up 30-60% over its wholesale price.

How did they keep beer cold in the Old West saloons? ›

Answer and Explanation: In the Old West, people did not always enjoy their beer cold, for their were no modern refrigerators. To keep beer cold, people would keep kegs of beer in caves and rock cellars, lined with harvested river ice. Sometimes, they would even use wet gunny sacks full of sawdust to cool beer, as well.

What time did pioneers go to bed? ›

Pioneers typically went to sleep at dusk since, without light, not much could be accomplished. Candles and lanterns were expensive and not to be wasted.

How did pioneers keep bacon from spoiling? ›

Usually, thick slabs of smoked bacon would keep as long as it was protected form the hot temperatures. One way to preserve bacon was to pack it inside a barrel of bran. Also, eggs could be protected by packing them in barrels of corn meal – as the eggs were used up, the meal was used to make bread.

How did cowboys sleep? ›

Use. To prepare the bed for sleeping, the cowboy laid it out with the tarp folded roughly in half at the middle, creating a near-square 6–7 ft. wide and 7–9 ft. long, and centered his bedding between the two long edges, with the top side of the tarp (2.5 to 3 ft.

Did cowboys in the Old West drink coffee? ›

Cowboys enjoyed black, strong coffee. After the first round was poured, they would add more coffee grounds to the pot to keep it strong. Brewing the coffee was a way for the men to relax and catch up at the end of their long days.


1. What It Was Like to Be a Wild West Cowboy
(Weird History)
2. What Were Wild West Saloons Really Like
(Weird History)
3. Here's What It Was Really Like To Pioneer On The Oregon Trail
4. Obesity, Diabetes, Cancer and You | Dr. Peter Attia | EP 360
(Jordan B Peterson)
5. What did PEASANTS EAT in medieval times?
(Modern History TV)
6. Cowboy Baked Beans
(Cowboy Kent Rollins)


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