UPK Top Ten, #10

By Aubree Chavez

We are excited to count down the ten best-selling books in the 78-year history of the University Press of Kansas. Check back each week as continue the countdown…

#10 Cowboy Culture by David Dary

Saddle, lasso, hat, these are all things we associate with the famous Cowboy. In David Dary’s Cowboy Culture, unlike other books that tell the history of the cowboy, the discovery of the contemporary cowboy is traced over 5 centuries.

The birth of the Cowboy began in 1494 when the Spanish conquered New Spain and cattle ranching was developed. The leading name for these cattle ranchers was Vaqueros. While the original cowboy was discovered in the 15th century, Dary calls attention to the Texas cowboy.

The Texas cowboy came to be when Christopher Columbus first explored the New World. During this exploration, no cattle or horses were documented, and in two months, the New World welcomed horses and cattle that were delivered by boat. After the introduction, or reintroduction, the number of cattle and horses in the New World began to skyrocket, wild horses and cattle were plentiful – as was the cowboy.

While Dary explains the politics of horses and cattle, he also explains how the Cowboy came to be with the rise of the animals. Cowboys, also known as vaqueros, began to hone their tools. Hocking knives soon replaced the lasso, and advancement in saddles allowed for better use of their reatas. Chap production began to better suit the cowboy and work well with the demand that was occurring.

David Dary’s Cowboy Culture is a comprehensive history of how the modern cowboy came to be, providing detailed history using diaries, journals, maps, and pictures, to show the steps, and tools, it took to get there.

“An exuberant book, bubbling over with tales, stories, and recollections. If one were going to buy a single book on the cowboy and his life and business, this ought to be it.”—South Dakota History

“Evocative reading. . . . A kind of source book for all the Westerns you’ve ever seen and are ever likely to see. . . . Between the lines, Cowboy Culture offers the germ of a story idea on almost every page.”—Los Angeles Times