Old West leather bags can be pommel bags; sitting in front of the saddle, traditional paired saddle bags hung across the horses hips behind each side of the cantle, and smaller bags, like horn bags; tubes or pockets hanging from the saddle horn, (traditionally used by the pony express riders) and small cantle bags or rolls sitting directly on the horse rump. Different saddles allowed for the use of different styles of bags. English saddles use a small bag carried on the off-side (right) of the horse. Panniers are bags that fit over the backs of horses or mules and are used for carrying gear on pack animals
Saddle bags were an essential part of the cowboy’s gear. During the time of the trail drive, these bags may simply have consisted of a pair of leather bags or pouches that the cowboy tied behind his saddle. These bags carried personal supplies, money and ammo that a man needed for the long journey driving cattle and horses up the trails. Each cowboy supplied his own personal saddle and bags to the ride, and every bit of tack was personalized to his needs.
As with any item, bags have evolved with both beauty and need. Tooling, studs, conches, and fringing create for each bag owner his or her own personal style and function.
The image of throwing a leather saddle bag, stored with anything from stolen bank money, or fabric for a woman’s dress, or even herbs and medicines carried by doctors across the plains and mountains of the old west will always fill our hearts with a sense of wanderlust and history.