Trail Drives

Cover - Vaqueros and Cowboys

These are the cowboys you’d find on a trail drive:

Trail Boss:

Think of him like the captain of a ship. The trail boss was the guy in charge. No cowboy (or vaquero) argued with the trail boss if he wanted to keep his job!

Chuck Wagon Exhibit

This photo from the Bell County Museum in Belton, Texas, shows what the back of a chuck wagon looked like. Chuck wagons were kitchens on wheels that cooks used to prepare meals. Of course, they didn't have microwaves, refrigerators, or stoves in the olden days so they weren't like the kitchen in your house!


The nickname for the cook was, "Cookie." Cookie used a "chuckwagon," which was like a kitchen on wheels. He cooked meals over a campfire for all the guys – usually about 12 to 15 very hungry men! Imagine how important the cook was to the crew. Even though his main job was to cook, he helped herd the cattle when needed.


These guys rode in assigned spots – kind of like you have an assigned seat at school. They drove the cattle and watched over them from their assigned spot.


Extra horses were always brought on a cattle drive and each man switched horses at least twice a day. The wranglers were in charge of taking care of the extra horses. Often, wild mustangs (a type of wild horse that lived in Texas) were to markets up north to sell, too.


These horses are wild mustangs. Mustang Island State Park got its name because Spaniards left wild horses here in the late 1500s. Wild mustangs once lived all over south Texas.

Cowboy 1888

See how this cowboy from 1888 wears chaps and a bandanna? See how his pointy boots make it easy for him to get in and out of the stirrups quickly?

What Cowboys Wore


If a cowboy couldn't get out of his stirrups fast enough he might get dragged by his horse and die. Yikes! Do you see why the cowboy boot is pointy shaped? It not only lets the cowboy slide his foot in the stirrup quickly so he can get on and chase after a runaway calf, but he can also escape quickly from the stirrups, too. That pointy toe doesn't get stuck! Whew.


Not only did a cowboy's hat keep the sun off his face in the heat and keep his head warm when it got cold, but he could also carry water in it when he needed. That's one reason the term "ten gallon hat" was born – but cowboy hats can't actually hold ten gallons of water! Someone was being silly, when they named cowboy hats that! But a cowboy's hat will hold enough so he can bring his thirsty horse a drink if his horse can't get its own water. In 1865, John Stetson invented the hat that we now recognize as the "cowboy hat" with that pointed crown.



Cowboys wear leather chaps over their pants to protect their legs from thorny plants and pokey cacti.



Besides his horse, this little square cloth just might be a cowboy's best friend. It protects him from dust, cold, dripping sweat, and he can even use it to wash up for supper!

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