You may as well ask why Toronto is called T-Dot these days. Although, I suppose the colloquial definition of ‘cow town’ does make a certain kind of sense when applied to one image of Calgary as a city. I remember a time when there was a big push to re-brand the city’s nickname as “C-Spot”. Why? Well, “Cow Town” is typically used as a somewhat derogatory way, i.e. “There’s nothing to do there. That place is just a little cow town.” Also, Calgary doesn’t really have that much to do with cows anymore. Or ranching and agriculture at all for that matter.
Calgary is capital of the Oil and Gas Industry in Canada. It was the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Winter Games, this stretch of the Bow River is a world-renowned trout fishing attraction, a huge amount of the tourism heading to the Rocky Mountains passes through the city first, high-tech manufacturing is taking off in the city, and the local film industry is in the midst of a boom (Thanks, Hell On Wheels!). Agriculture and ranching haven’t been a critical part of the local economy for more than 70 years. In short, there really isn’t very much “Cow” about Calgary these days. If anything, it’s more about Oil and High-Tech Manufacturing than it is about Cows.
Actually, even the image of the big Oil and Gas economy is being marginalised. The Oil Industry isn’t nearly as big a part of the local economy anymore thanks to growing investments in High-Tech Manufacturing, E-Commerce, Light Manufacturing, Film and, of course, Tourism.
Ah, Tourism… Well, okay, maybe there’s ONE thing.
In 1912 four wealthy ranchers started up a small local rodeo and agricultural show that they decided to call the Calgary Stampede. This was heavily influenced by the sheer amount of settlers that poured into the area between 1896 and 1914 in response to an offer of free homestead land. Before you knew it, Ranching was a critical component of the local economy, the Calgary Stampede became known as “the greatest outdoor show on earth”, and Calgary was stuck with the image of being a cattle-raising, hoe-downing, Cowboy-hat-wearin’ Cow Town.
Which is really a fine way to identify the city. It’s incomplete, and inaccurate, but for ten days every July it is absolutely, %100 true. What’s more, we like it that way.
Welcome to Calgary, home of the Calgary Stampede. You can call it Cow Town.