Cowboys of the Americas: The Realities of Life as a Cowboy

Written by Richard W Slatta

Winner of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s 1991 Western Heritage Award for non-fiction.

People throughout the world thrill to stories of galloping hooves, stampeding cattle, blazing gunfights, and other elements of cowboy lore, but few know what life was actually like for the working cowboy. This engrossing book by Richard Slatta explores the reality of cowboy life in the United States, Canada, and Spanish America, from the cowboy’s beginnings as a wild-cattle hunter to his decline in the early twentieth century.

Quoting extensively from first-hand descriptions of cowboy and ranch life, Slatta provides fascinating vignettes of the cowboy in the American and Canadian West, as well as of Hawaii’s paniolo, Mexico’s vaquero, Venezuela’s llanero, Chile’s huaso, and Argentina’s gaucho. Slatta compares the appearance, dress, character, and activities of these cowboys, demonstrating that Spanish influence was pervasive in all open-range cattle frontiers of North and South America. He takes the reader along with the cowboy to roundups and trail drives, horse races, campfires, saloons, and brothels. He reveals the harsh reality of frontier racial conflict and Indian wars. And he discusses the changes that overtook the cowboy as farmers, immigrants, and technology pushed across the plains, transforming the old way of life in the saddle and leaving the cowboy image alive only in myth and popular culture.

Praise for Cowboys of the Americas

‘This unique panoramic history is an absolute delight to read.’—Howard R. Lamar

‘Slatta tells the story of these cowboys more comprehensively than the novels of Zane Grey or the old Hopalong Cassidy movies could ever hope to . . . This is an outstanding work.’—William Dieter, Smithsonian

‘Everything you wanted to know about the cowboy but were afraid to ask.’—James Crumley, Los Angeles Times

‘A sweeping comparative overview of the rise and fall of the cowboy and the cattle ranges he worked, from the Argentine pampas to the Alberta prairies . . . Slatta has drawn upon an array of multinational scholarships, as well as his own archival research, to fashion an engaging… foray into the world of the cowboy.’—John H. Lenihan, Western Historical Quarterly

‘A beautifully written work of sustaining value . . . Rich in detail.’—Dale L. Walker, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

‘If you read only one (more) book on cowboys, read this one.’—Thomas D. Hall, Journal of the Southwest


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