West River Eagle

Traditional Hoof Stew

Buffalo or cow hooves are the way to go for this recipe.

Deer, elk, horse, goats and chickens are excluded from this recipe, so their hooves and chicken toes are not needed. Also, tell your friends to put their cow hoof boots away, too. This recipe is not about their footwear. Please wear them only at the NFR and not the INFR. It’ll only cause confusion and may be a disturbance at the Las Vegas INFR between tribes. Is that bloka (macho stud) hitting on my wife, the same bull I rode this afternoon? While looking at his cow hooves on the carpet at the casino.

The grass-fed cow is laying there, freshly dead, on its side, its tongue hanging out. And you know the full-grown dead cow is heavy. Their hide is tough and will dull most knives quickly.

The have to be gutted, skinned, quartered and loaded into the pickup. My wife, 80-year old mother-in-law and myself, supervised by my two-year old son sitting in his stroller, did it in 90° humid heat in a small corral with no breeze, surrounded by trees and brush. Fortunately, there weren’t any mosquitos.

Gutting is always a tough process. We don’t want to break the stomach lining with a knife. We had many years of experience butchering cows, ducks, storks, deer, elk and horses. A washtub was loaded with tanica (guts), another was loaded with heart, tongue, kidneys and liver. (Note: Read my buffalo tongue recipe.

Starting from the legs and stomach, the cow is skinned, rolling the carcass back and forth to skin the backbone hide. Front leg quarters, back leg quarters, ribs, neck and backbone meat are loaded. A cloth tarp made from blue jeans covers everything, keeping the road dust off the washtubs and meat.

Lastly, the hooves are sawed off, about four inches above the hoof, with the hide on. They are thrown on top of the tarp to weigh it down. We smell of blood and guts and have smiles on our faces when we are done.

Many years ago, we went to butcher a cow donated by a local rancher for the powwow. I shot the cow in the forehead inside the small corral using my .357 mag. S&W 586 revolver with reloads. It was skinned without being gutted by many of the older women of the village. And then the cow stood up and bellowed with no hide on. 

Many stories were told about the women, holding knives, in their dresses and aprons, hopping over a wood board fence higher than they were. I must have just knocked the cow out.

Because of the heat of the day, the meat is deboned and put in the refrigerator before it turns. By turns, I mean before it spoils or turns rotten. The hoofs are skinned, cleaned, and put in the freezer. A water hose, stiff brush and a screwdriver aid in cleaning.

Skinning the hooves requires a small thin sharp knife for the hide between the hoof toes. All the hide and hair is taken off the hooves. Keep in mind, there are small, medium and large hooves.

When I was helping my brother-in-law brand, my job was injecting growth hormone in the neck so as to increase the calf’s weight at sale time, while others did the branding, clipping on ear tags and so on. All of this was done in a squeeze chute. I’ve always wondered if the growth hormone had anything to do with that twelve-year old kid wearing size fourteen basketball shoes, or the large size of my brother-in-law’s pasu (nose).

Maybe weeks or months later, when the cook is in the mood for cow hoof cooking and eating, two hooves are defrosted. There should be four hooves in the freezer. It doesn’t matter if they are front hooves or rear hooves. The taste the same.

The hooves are boiled in a large pot, covered in water. They are then simmered for three to four hours, depending on the size of the hooves. Water is added as it boils down. The cooking heat and steam warms the house. In the last hour of cooking, several handfuls of dried corn is added. This combination can’t be beat. Maybe a bay leaf can be added during the cooking. One can add other spices but it’s not encouraged. (Note: Read my dried corn article.)

When the hooves are done, the bones come apart. Soup is dished into the bowl, a cow hoof bone is added, and you’re ready for supper. We always have company when serving hooves. My wife is always complimented for her time and skill in cooking the hooves and the homemade bread.

Don’t throw away the bones and hooves. Kids like to play with the bones. Every family has a White guy friend. String them bones together and give them to him as an appreciation for being a friend. If he’s wearing the bones and he feels like mooing, tell him to go outside. Better yet, tell him to go to your nosy sister-in-law’s place.

I don’t like to waste anything. I grew up in the country during the 1950s when food and clothing were scarce. I mention this because somebody on my wife’s side of the family could use the hooves to make their own hoof boots to wear at the tribal rodeos. It would look neat as they are wearing them and spurring a bucking bull or racing around barrels. Then, later on, in the evening, line dancing at the local duck-and-dive saloon, keeping time with the music with their hoof boots. Many stories would be told that would become legendary tales about our generation.


NFR: National Finals Rodeo

INFR: Indian National Finals Rodeo

AHo: It’s done. It’s good. See you again.

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