our world today we constantly read of high prices paid for outstanding
animals such as race horses, cutting horses, barrel horses and even
the top bucking stock in rodeo. The top animals in those fields are
well trained, well cared for and above all, must enjoy their work.
To see a top-notch animal work is a distinct pleasure to anyone who
When old-time ranchers
and cowboys gather, they talk for hours recalling every horse
they rode and telling the reasons for his worth. And thereby hangs
a tale I read recently and another story told by an old-timer during
The Plains Indians, especially the Comanche, were dependent on their
horses for hunting buffalo,
moving their homes to another site, and for warfare. Before rifles
became available, they hunted buffalo
with lances and bows and arrows, all while riding at a dead run across
the prairies on their horses.
were large, could run as fast as horses for miles, their hides were
tough, and it sometimes took many arrows or lances to bring the beasts
down. Since it required both hands to shoot an arrow, the horse was
on its own to keep the hunter close enough to shoot into the animal.
Imagine being astride a hard-running horse, in a cloud of dust, during
a buffalo stampede,
crossing all kinds of terrain, knowing if you did not kill an animal
your family would go hungry. In these circumstances, a good hunter
horse could be very valuable.
The old man being interviewed said a good buffalo-hunting
horse was worth 100 average Indian horses. One chief was so proud
of his buffalo horse the family carried a separate teepee just to
house the horse, and the wives and children carried water and hay
to the mount.
In another interview, an old cowboy told of working on a big ranch
that had a wide brushy river bottom running through the middle of
the ranch. The owners were trying to upgrade the quality of their
cattle but were having trouble with several outlaw bulls running wild
in the bottom.
They ordered their cowboys to gather the wild bulls or shoot them.
Hard, dangerous riding finally found and ran down several of the wild
bulls missed during years of previous roundups. They were so large
and stout, even when roped they could not be pulled to where they
were to be loaded on trailers.
The men tied the beasts by their horns to trees hoping they would
be more docile after going without feed and water for a few days.
Before they returned, a bad thunderstorm came up and caused a flood
several feet deep down the brushy river bottom. The outlaw bulls all
drowned while tied to the trees.
For years afterward, ranch cowboys
would occasionally ride upon a huge, bleached bull skull still tied
to a tree by a rope.
Though this story may sound cruel at first, probably to these "born
free" wild animals, drowning was better than being confined in pens
and eventually butchered for beef.
"It's All Trew" March
30 , 2010 Column
On Cowboys & Ranching