These are the forgotten black cowboys who at one point made up 25 per cent of the 35,000 cowboys in the Wild West.
Captured in these black and white photos, the African American cowboys were given all the worst jobs on the trail, had to ride the lamest horses but were banned from brothels because of the colour of their skin.
And despite their huge numbers, they have been largely erased from most popular film and TV depictions of the American West.
This shows the famous cowboy Jesse Stahl riding a horse backwards. Jesse was an African-American cowboy and rodeo rider who was legendary for his skills in the saddle. Stahl was described as a topnotch horseman and a first-class gentleman. Conflicting sources establish Jesse Stahl’s birthplace as Tennessee, Texas or California sometime between 1879 and 1883
Several legendary gunslingers are revealed in the gallery of photos.
One of those pictured is famed black cowboy Jesse Stahl, whose rodeo riding skills were unparalleled in the 1800s.
Another pictures is former slave turned cowboy Nat Love, who travelled the frontier befriending the likes of Billy the Kid.
Ned Huddleston, left, an African-American cowboy and former slave, pictured circa 1880s. Ned was at various points a legitimate stunt rider and a horse and cattle rustler. On the right is Bill Pickett a cowboy and rodeo performer. From Texas, he became a ranch hand and invented the technique of bulldogging, a method that subdues cattle by biting their lip
Jesse Stahl pictured flamboyantly riding a horse named Grave Digger, around 1916. Jesse Stahl is most famous for his performance at the Salinas Rodeo in California in 1912. Before more than 4,000 fans, Stahl stole the show in the rodeo’s classic event of saddle bronc riding on the bronco named Glass Eye. The horse would buck, twist his body 180-degrees midair, and land in the exact opposite direction
Nat Love, an African-American cowboy and former slave, pictured circa 1900. Nat Love was the most famous black hero of the Old West largely down to his self-reported exploits in his autobiography. Nat taught himself how to read and write he tells how he moved to Dodge City, Kansas to work as a cowboy where he fought cattle rustlers and met Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
The collection also includes images of outlaw Ned Huddleston who was gunned down in a notorious Wild West murder case.
Also highlighted is the female frontier legend Mary Fields whose love of brawling, drinking and horses made her famous.
Mary reportedly had a standing bet with the cowboys of the Old West saloons that she could knock any man out with a single punch.
Pictured are two more famous figures. On the left is Bass Reeves, the first African-American US Deputy Marshal. Bass was recruited as a Deputy U.S. Marshal because of his knowledge of the Wild West. He is credited with arresting more than 3,000 felons, however was never shot himself. Mary Fields, pictured right in circa 1895. Although not technically a cowboy, Fields was legendary in Cascade, Montana for her love of brawling, drinking and horses and regularly dressed like a man
Pictured riding again in 1916, Jess Stahl was a legend in the old West. Nothing is known about his childhood other than he had a brother named Ambrose. Both brothers joined the rodeo circuit but only Jesse went on to fame. He would thrill fans at shows and earned a reputation as a magnificent rider
Pictured are two more black cowboys with a horse, although unlike the legendary Jesse Stahl, their identities are unknown. Following the Civil War, America turned its attention to settling lands in the Great Plains and many of the first settlers were freed slaves or children of former slaves who became the first black cowboys of the American Frontier
Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, America turned its attention to settling lands in the Great Plains and to the West.
A number of these first settlers were freed slaves or children of former slaves who travelled west – and became the first black cowboys of the American Frontier.
Many former slaves had skills in cattle handling and were able to find work as ‘cow hands’ to white ranchers in the West.
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Source: Daily Mail