Rawhide TV Show and American Cattle Drives Texas Longhorns

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Rawhide TV series

Rawhide was a television Western series of the 1950’s and 1960’s portraying cattle drives in the American west. It starred Eric Fleming as Gil Favor and Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates.The series had a total of 217 episodes done in black and white, and lasted seven and a half years.

I have been watching reruns of the show recently and find it very good. The lead actors were star quality, although Eastwood did not get recognition very soon and Fleming died in a boating accident when he was still rather young. It also had a long list of guest stars that have become well known.I also think the show had a lot of historical authenticity. It at least has an authentic feel to it. The stories were often situations that they ran across along the way. These were fictional and not historical. However, the cattle drive background seems pretty accurate.

The show is based on the cattle drives from San Antonio, Texas along the Sedalia Trail to Sedalia, Missouri, about 50 miles east of Kansas City. The herd is estimated to be worth around $50,000 to 60,000 at market. Two hundred owners are represented and the herd itself adds up to 3,000 head. Since there were no credit cards in those days the trail boss had considerable responsibility in carrying large amounts of cash for expenses. The drovers made about a dollar a day and food was furnished.

One of the things that struck me on the show was that to some extent the working relationships seemed almost military. That, of coarse, is only my impression. But in the real cowboy world there had to be discipline and the drovers were all interdependent. Many of the drovers were veterans of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. It was after the Civil War that the cattle drives became a serious business. The nature of the cattle drive made it necessary for everyone to do their job or they could lose control of the herd.

The American Cattle Drive

Cattle drives and cowboys are what most people think of when they think of the historical or fictional western United States. Although cattle drives did exist in Europe it did not prove profitable. America inherited the idea of cattle drives largely from Mexico, as it was traditional in Mexico, California and Texas, according to the website Alan’s Kitchen.com/cowboy/Frontier life. The Spanish established the ranching industry in the New World and began in the 1540’s to drive herds north.What are usually thought of as Texas are the Longhorn cattle, which descended from the Spanish ranch and mission herds. They had horn spreads as great as eight feet across. They got mixed with shorter horned Mexican cattle or cattle that originated in Britain, which had been brought by Anglo-American colonist from the East Coast.

As reflected in the Rawhide series the cattle drive averaged about 3,000 head, with a crew of ten or more cowboys and three horses per man. They worked in shifts 24 hours a day. Also shown in Rawhide they had a cook who drove a chuck wagon, ordinarily pulled by oxen. On the TV show they show it pulled by horses. There is also a wrangler to take care of the spare horses called a remuda.

The Spaniards in the New World started the ranching industry. They started to drive herds north from Mexico in the 1540’s according to Alan’s Kitchen.com.

Long distance cattle drives were traditional in Mexico, California and Texas, according to wikipedia. Sometime horses were driven in a similar way. In Australia sheep have been driven in much the same way.

During the 18th and 19th Centuries there were small Spanish settlements in Texas who got a lot of their income from horses and cattle driven to Louisiana. When Texas was still part of Mexico in 1836 there was a trail to New Orleans. Texans extended markets into Missouri. “Baxter Springs, Springfield, and St. Louis were Principal markets,” according to Allen’s Kitchen website.

The cattle drive in America, celebrated in myth and movies, got its big start after the Civil War. “In 1865, Phillip Danforth Armour opened a meat packing plant in Chicago,” according to Allen’s Kitchen Website. ”About 260,000 head of cattle crossed the Red River from 1866. They lasted about 20 years until railroads and refrigeration in 1880 rendered the task unnecessary, according to the Texas Almanac.

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Texas


The American cattle drive as portrayed in westerns such as Rawhide has a lot to do with Texas. It was Texans who turned trail driving into an occupation. In 1836, Texas broke away from Mexico. There was a trail for drives to New Orleans at that time and Texans extended it northward in the1840s. They started to drive herds into such Missouri towns as Sedalia, Baxter Springs, Springfield, and St. Louis as principal markets.

In the 1850’s freighting from the Missouri river west created a demand for oxen. Thousands of Longhorn cattle were trained to be used as oxen. Longhorn herds were also driven to Chicago.

In the 1850’s the California gold boom also created a demand for beef. Most were gotten locally of from Mexico but some long drives were tried. Australians drove cattle to ports for shipment to San Francisco. Lynnette Cipriani drove cattle from St. Louis to San Francisco along the California Trail and went back to Europe with large profits in1855.

Texans drove cattle into the Confederacy for use of the Army there. In 1863 the Union took control of the Mississippi River and stopped those drives, which was hard on the Confederacy to lose.

Illinois


At the end of the war Phillip Danforth Armour opened a meat packing plant in Chicago called Armour and Company.

Even before this, Illinois played a role. For cattle driven out of Texas it was a key site during the time before the Civil War, an intermediate stop and final destination. Cattle were taken there to fatten up on rich prairie grass or Midwestern corn. This served both for those that were driven to eastern cities or went to Chicago slaughterhouses.

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Cattle Trails


As early as the 1840’s the Shawnee trail or Texas trail was important in Texas. However farmers started to block the passage of the cattle and the drovers were forced to turn them back because the cattle carried ticks, which spread Texas fever. Although the Texas cattle were immune the ticks infected the local cattle, according to wikipedia. In 1859 laws were passed in banning the diseased cattle from being brought through Missouri. Some drovers tried taking cattle around the eastern edge of Kansas but they also met resistance and new laws were passed.

The Shawnee Trail was pretty much unused during the Civil War. Texashad an overabundance of cattle after the war and little in the way of local markets. An estimated 200,000 to 260,000 cattle were gathered to drive overland in 1866. As a result the first large scale cattle drive from Texas to the nearest railhead to ship to Chicago followed. That railhead was at Sedalia, Missouri. The farmers in eastern Kansas being fearful of transient cattle trampling crops and the danger of Texas fever gathered together in groups that threatened to beat of shoot cattlemen. As a result the cattle did not get through and was sold for low prices.

The following year a cattle shipping facility was built near the railhead at Abilene, Kansas. It became a cattle center and loaded 36,000 head the first year. This route from Texas to Abilene became known as the Chisholm Trail, as Jesse Chisholm marked out the route. Although this was Indian territory (present day Oklahoma) there were not too many conflicts with the Indians. The cattlemen paid a toll of ten cents a head to the Indians to let the cattle through.

Texas had as much as five million cattle at the end of the war and no market for them. Several attempts to drive cattle were unsuccessful. The most successful market seemed to be in Kansas and the drives started heading north.

In 1867 Joseph G. McCoy opened a market in Abilene, Kansas. After that the trails westward were established and a boom in trail driving followed. The Goodnight-Loving trail opened up New Mexico and Colorado to Texas cattle. Tens of thousands cattle were driven to Arizona.

That was the start of the cattle drive era. From this followed the Cattle towns such as Dodge City and the popular folk the Cowboy.

There have been several movies about the cattle drives as well as the television series Rawhide, which impresses me as giving a pretty good image of the drover or cowboy and the cattle drive.

Sources for this article

Cattle Drives in the United States in Wikipedia.

Cattle Drives—Alan’s Kitchen

Rawhide (TV Series) Wikipedia.

Cattle Drive

© 2011 Don A. Hoglund

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Comments 28 comments

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

I will give you a thumbs up and slap a 'useful' sticker on your side. A lot of great information. I was thinking of mentioning the Civil War connection only to discover, as I read on, that you had mentioned it. Yes, Rawhide was an impressive Western show that was there a long time on television. No Western, however, lasted as long as Doctor Who on British and Australian television. Doctor Who ran unbroken for thirty years. I have the video '30 Years in the TARDIS'. I also have my memories of growing up with both Rawhide and the good Doctor.

One episode of Rawhide that really got to me was when the horns on the long horns lit up blue due to atmospheric conditions. I wondered about this and consulted Lyn McConchie who owns cattle in New Zealand and has written one great Western for the American market. Apparently the effect wasn't made up and it did sometimes happen on the trail. It was a rare event so it spooked the men and also spooked the cattle.

By the way Joseph McCoy came to refer to himself as the real McCoy thus starting up that saying meaning the authentic item or genuine article.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Spectacular Hub! Voted up and up!


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

I've yet to see an episode of "Rawhide" but I know it introduced the world to Clint Eastwood, as Rowdy Yates. I think the best film about cattle drives is "Red River" with John Wayne. Great film.

Nicely done hub.

Rob


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Rod,

I appreciate you pointing out a blunder on my part in a courteous way.I have removed the offending statement.I have not watched Dr.Who very much. Truthfully I never quite caught on to it, sort of a cult tghing. I used to work with a guy who was a big fan of it.Rawhide was on during my college years and I didn't have much time for TV.

I am becoming more aware of the effect of the Civil War on the West. A lot of southerners, upper class went west because the lost there property. Blacks may have left seeking opportunity that was denied them.lower class also looking for opportunities. I've felt that the gunfight tradition in westerns might have evolved from the dueling thing in the south.The military itself may have moved some to the west such as the Black "buffalo Soldiers" and the "Galvanized Yankees" who were Confederates who were allowed to go in the Union army and fight Indians.

I heard about the episode about the blue light but have not seen that episode.

Interesting anecdote about McCoy.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks Will. I appreciate your comment and am glad you like it.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the comment Rob. As I recall, red river was a film that inspired Rawhide.I have seen it but a long time ago.


Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 5 years ago

I've watched the westerns and that was one of them. you may like the PBS program I recently watched called.The last Cattle Drive http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/lastcowboy/cowb...

Nicely done as usual.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Yes, I think I would like it. Thanks for commenting and the information.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Its okay, dahoglund. No one was offended. I took it as an honest mistake. I didn't really think most Americans would know how long Doctor Who had been going for before it was canceled. Even after cancellation it lived on in magazines and paperbacks. Then it made a big comeback to television and has been going ever since. I liked Doctor Who in the '60s, '70s and '80s because a lot of the time he solved problems with his scientific know-how and not brute force. I know it had a bit of a cult following in the USA.

You are absolutely right about the gunfight tradition evolving from the European duel which was popular in the south before the Civil War.

The Buffalo Soldiers of the West were black. They were called Buffalo soldiers by the Indians because the Indians felt that their skin was the color of buffalo. I get the impression that it was no insult but a kind of compliment. Bob Marley's song Buffalo Soldier is quite moving and I feel to the point.

I am glad you liked the anecdote. It was mentioned in the television documentary series The Adventure of English.

By the way there was a TV show called The Real McCoys (1957-1963) starring Walter Brennan and Kathleen Nolan. Its set in what were then modern times on a ranch in West Virgina. I remember it had a lively intro song to the show. Not a true Western though.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I remember the real McCoys although I don't remember it well. I never thought of it as a Western but as a Hillbilly show. That was a good era for TV.It seems there were more good shows than a person had time to watch.

The theory I read about the buffalo soldiers is the Indians though their "nappy" hair was like the buffalo.

As far as the error on the long lasting TV shows being westerns was a matter of careless research on my part, not a matter of offending and I am glad to have it corrected.


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

Hi dahog, i remember Rawhide, with Rowdy Yeates. It seemed pretty authentic to a wide eyed kid from England. The industrialised world leaves many things obsolete. Hubpages has stopped me reading books. I enjoyed your hub, the wild west was an important part of my upbringing and cattle drives were prominent. Cheers


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

I love Discovery Channel and all TV program related with education like animal review. Thank you very much for share this hub. I learn much from you. Vote up! Congratulation for 100 hub score. You deserve to get this one.

Prasetio


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi attemptedhumor. I've been noticing a certain similarity to another of my favorite shows"Route 66."That's because they are both "road show" where the characters move from place to place and run into situations that make a story.When i was a kid Gunsmoke and the Lone Ranger were radio shows. Both made it to TV.Thanks for commenting.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Praestlo,

I may be caught up in the past but I now get a channel called"MeTV" which runs old shows like Gunsmoke,Rawhide,Bob Newhart and others.Some of these shows I had little opportunity to watch when they were original run.I think the 1960's was a good period for Westerns.Thaanks for the congratulations on my hub score.It usually goes down again so I've learned to sort of ignore it.I appreciate your comments.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

I too love Rawhide and other old westerns. Thanks for the history and factual information about trails too.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you liked it.


ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

I thought this hub was going to be about Rawhide, the western series. Instead it was mostly facts about the cattle drives. I am not complaining. I love this information.

I understand that a third of the cowboys were blacks. A fact not show much in the many western shows. Since many cowboys were black and many were past confederate soldiers it must have led to some difficultys getting along together out on the plains.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I was just writing a new hub about the Black cowboys. You are right about the number of black cowboys. However, in trail crews they seemed to have gotten along fine with the white cowboys.There was prejudice in the towns etc. Speaking of the TV show it does show one Black cowboy as well as a Mexican. However there probably should have been more. Westerns have left out Blacks both in movies and books. In the 1960's more awareness was starting which is why Rawhide show at least one black cowboy.

Thanks for commenting.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

I used to love watching the Rawhide TV show with my family. I can hear the song being played in my head right now. This brought back memories of my earlier years. You also added good background information regarding the old cattle drives. Up and useful votes as well as interesting.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Hi Peggy

I'm catching up on some shows that I didn't have the time for when they were originally on. I was a bit surprised to find the theme song was sung by Frankie Lane. Seemed like he was best known for the Muleskinner song.Texas certainly played a big part.Thanks for the comment and the votes.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 4 years ago from Asheville, NC

I loved watching Rawhide and many other old western TV shows. I used to enjoy The Rifleman too. This is a great Hub. Rated up and interesting. Thanks.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

There were a lot of them back then. So many that it was impossible to see them all.Glad you liked the hub and thanks for commenting.


WesternHistory profile image

WesternHistory 4 years ago from California

Great hub. I too used to watch rawhide. Just about everything we know as cowboy derived from the Spanish vaquero. The vaquero had to adapt to the southwest which presented a different environment than what the herders were accustomed to in Spain. The American cowboy actually was a blend of the two cultures.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Westernhistory,

Yes. I agree. Thanks for commenting.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 4 years ago from Texas

We used to watch Rawhide every week. It was one of my favorite shows when I was a child (along with Bullwinkle and the Flintstones, which were both on during prime time!) I think Sheldon Leonard made an appearance as an Indian (of all things) on Rawhide once, but it could have been some other show. Voted up & Interesting! :)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Justmesusan,

It was a popular show.I am watching reruns now and I am impressed with the quality of the show. Scripts are mostly good. I used to under rate Westerns as a genre but have learned that like all things they have to be understood on their own terms, so to speak, Thanks for commenting.


Cat R profile image

Cat R 4 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

Love the history lesson. Used to watch a ton of different 'Cowboy' TV shows in Germany, but never did figure out what the titles were. I was also a big fan of the Duke, who's movie 'Green Beret' inspired me to come to the U.S..


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Cat R

Thanks for reading and commenting on this hub. I've got a cable channel that has been showing some old shows including Rawhide, so I got a fresh look at it.In the 1960's there were more Cowboy shows than anybody had time to watch. I did try to tie the show into the real histry of the cattle drives which I think makes it more meaningful.

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