About how many cowboys came through a cattle town each season?

Mike Franklin

Poteet, Texas

That’s a tough one to pin down; the number of cowhands might vary from outfit to outfit.

In 1867, the first year of the Long Drive, about 35,000 head went up the trail to Kansas. By 1871, the number increased to 600,000 cows. Drives required approximately one cowhand for every 250 cows. For 600,000 cows, about 2,400 drovers would have went to Dodge City in 1871.

A fair number of guys wouldn’t have that job again. The year 1875 saw a depression and a market glut, so only 151,618 cows came up from Texas. The next year, the number of cows more than doubled to 321,998. In 1880, 394,784 head hit Kansas—but in 1881 it was only 250,000, which means only about 1,000 cowboys were needed for the drives that year.

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