Chuck Wagon History

Charles Goodnight is credited with inventing the chuck wagon. In 1866 he and his partner, Oliver Loving, made preparations to take a herd of 2,000 longhorn cattle from Texas to Colorado. Goodnight started with an Army wagon and rebuilt it with seasoned bois d'arc wood, the hardest available.

The wagon had a sloping box on the rear with a hinged side that lowered to create a cook's worktable for meal preparation. The box was the width of the wagon and contained shelves and drawers for holding food and utensils. Since cowboys called these meals “chuck," the wagon became known as a "chuck wagon."

Goodnight's early prototype of the chuck wagon was copied widely, thus contemporary wagons reflect the same general design.

The chuck wagons of the Old West that traveled with the herd on the trail are gone. But in an effort to preserve the Old West, the National Cowboy Symposium & Celebration's National Chuck Wagon Cookoff is a showcase revival of the skills used to keep cowboys fed and fit. The wagons are rolling museums in and of themselves, and the Cookoff is your chance to experience a part of authentic Western history.