... "American cowboys were drawn from multiple sources. By the late 1860s, following the American Civil War and the expansion of the cattle industry, former soldiers from both the Union and Confederacy came west, seeking work, as did large numbers of restless white men in general. A significant number of African-American freedmen also were drawn to cowboy life, in part because there was not quite as much discrimination in the west as in other areas of American society at the time. A significant number of Mexicans and American Indians already living in the region also worked as cowboys. Later, particularly after 1890, when American policy promoted 'assimilation' of Indian people, some Indian boarding schools also taught ranching skills. Today, some Native Americans in the western United States own cattle and small ranches, and many are still employed as cowboys, especially on ranches located near Indian Reservations. The 'Indian Cowboy' also became a commonplace sight on the rodeo circuit.
Because cowboys ranked low in the social structure of the period, there are no firm figures on the actual proportion of various races. One writer states that cowboys were '...of two classes-those recruited from Texas and other States on the eastern slope; and Mexicans, from the south-western region...' Census records suggest that about 15% of all cowboys were of African-American ancestry-ranging from about 25% on the trail drives out of Texas, to very few in the northwest. Similarly, cowboys of Mexican descent also averaged about 15% of the total, but were more common in Texas and the southwest. Other estimates suggest that in the late 19th century, one out of every three cowboys was a Mexican vaquero, and 20% may have been African-American." ...Bronco Sam
For More Information on Black Cowboys:Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, And Little-Known Stories From History