While Texas ranchers fought in the war, they depended on their slaves(black cowboys) to maintain their land and cattle herds.

History of the black cowboys

In doing so, the slaves developed the skills of cattle tending (breaking horses, pulling calves out of mud and releasing longhorns caught in the brush, to name a few) that would render them invaluable to the Texas cattle industry in the post-war era. 

But with a combination of a lack of effective containment— barbed wire was not yet invented—and too few cowhands, the cattle population ran wild. Ranchers returning from the war discovered that their herds were lost or out of control.

Emancipation Proclamation

They tried to round up the cattle and rebuild their herds with slave labor, but eventually the Emancipation Proclamation left them without the free workers on which they were so dependent.

Desperate for help rounding up maverick cattle, ranchers were compelled to hire now-free, skilled African-Americans as paid cowhands. —credit SMITHSONIANMAG.COM 

Black Cowboys such as:

Bill Pickett, born in 1870 in Texas to former slaves, became one of the most famous early rodeo stars.

He dropped out of school to become a ranch hand and gained an international reputation for his unique method of catching stray cows.

As a result of, his observations of how ranch dogs caught wandering cattle, Pickett controlled a steer by biting the cow’s lip, subduing him.

He performed his trick, called bulldogging or steer wrestling, for audiences around the globe with the Miller Brothers’ 101 Wild Ranch Show.

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