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Cowboy Bob,

I love all the information I found on your website. It is loaded full of great cowboy facts.

But I was looking for information on the quote "toss in the hat." Where did it come from? I assume it means to quit, but cowboys aren’t know quitters and have a high respect for their hats, so I was thinking it might mean something else altogether. Maybe a rodeo term?

D. S.


John L. Sullivan To "toss in the hat" isn't a rodeo term. Rather, it is usually a political figure of speech, and has its roots in the world of boxing. In the early days of boxing, when someone wanted to challenge a boxer, he would toss his hat into the ring. Obviously, the only way to retrieve that hat would be to crawl int the ring -- and thus face the pugilist who was there.

John L. Sullivan (1858 – 1918), the first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing, made the hat toss an art form. After defeating his opponent, Sullivan would take his hat and toss it into the ring as a challenge to anyone in the audience who wanted to face him. If an audience member stayed on his feet till the end of the bout, Sullivan would reward him with a prize.

By the end of the 19th century, candidates who filed for political office were said to have "tossed their hat in the ring." In other words, the candidate had issued a challenge to other candidates. Thus, as a legislative candidate, every time I ran for political office, I "tossed my hat in the ring."

Far from indicating defeat, the term is an offer to take on all comers.

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