Rocky Mountain Oysters


Why is he grinning? He shouldn’t be grinning.

We have this bucolic image of ranching. We imagine a stoic cowboy on his horse, rounding up cattle on an open range. He wears a wide-brimmed hat to shield his eyes from the fierce prairie sun, leading his healthy herd to rich pasturage with his trusty lasso.

Rarely – if ever – does the fact that millions of bulls are castrated yearly cross our minds. We don’t want to imagine our cowboy doing that.

It’s gross. Depraved. Maniacal.

But believe it or not, castration is an integral part of the beef industry. And why? Because it makes the bull less aggressive, and you get a better grade of beef.

All very defensible reasons for making Elmer (of glue fame) a eunuch, of course.

So what happens to those testicles? Do we put them into cans of dog food, or perhaps serve them ground at your favorite taco establishment?

Such would be fitting ends.

It turns out, however, that there’s no need for subterfuge. People willingly eat bull testicles.

Known colloquially as Rocky Mountain oysters, it’s even something of a delicacy, and perhaps the closest thing Colorado has to a state dish. Yeah, yeah, there’s the Denver omelet, but that’s just a flippin’ omelet with ham, cheese, and green peppers. In a day and age of BUILD YOUR OWN OMELETS™, it’s pretty damn boring.

Rocky Mountain oysters are generally served breaded, sliced up and pounded first to create a more civilized, agreeable appearance. You can even order up a basket at Colorado Rockies games, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase, “play ball!”


What, you thought I was joking? Photo by Wally Gobetz.

I got my first taste of Rocky Mountain oysters at Bruce’s Bar in Severance, Colorado. The punny significance of the town’s name wasn’t lost on one of my dining companions (and yes, I referred to them as “dining companions” the entire evening). She thought it was inexplicably hilarious, pointing out the cosmic significance time and time again.

I’ll let you be the judge on how funny of a connection that really is.

Hell, who knows? Maybe that’s part of the reason such a small town became a mecca for testicle enthusiasts.

I mean, Severance is tiny. There’s a smattering of suburban sprawl, but you still feel pretty isolated, out there on the plains. The post office across the street from Bruce’s is straight out of the Old West, completed by a classic false front. It’s a weird place.

Bruce’s Bar definitely plays up the oddness with its humor. Picketing bulls are painted on the outside walls, holding up signs decrying how “unfair” Rocky Mountain oysters are, while another bull rides a motorcycle and declares STILL GOT MINE. An eye-catching bit of advertising, definitely.

Inside, though, Bruce’s Bar is your pretty typical homey dive bar. Respectable, but unremarkable. You’re here to get balls deep in some testicles, anyway.

And you can get an order of Rocky Mountain oysters with fries for $10.99, and Budweiser on tap for $1.75. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a more All-American combo than that. Have you?

When the food arrives, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were being served some diminutive chicken fingers.

One bite quickly dispels that notion.

That’s not to say Rocky Mountain oysters have a shocking or revolting flavor. It’s… different, yes, but not terrible. There’s a gamey, mineral character it. I want to compare it to liver, but that isn’t quite right. Maybe a better way to put it is, if you like liver from cheap diners, you’ll probably like Rocky Mountain oysters.

That’s the best I can muster.

Texture-wise, it’s chewy, though not unpleasant. After about six or seven oysters, I found myself drowning what was left in ketchup and begging my dining companions to eat more, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD EAT MORE. For some reason, Rocky Mountain oysters don’t strike me as making great leftovers, and I hate the idea of wasting food.

But alas, I ended up leaving a few on the plate.

I’m sorry, America.


Oh yeah, and before I wrap this up, I should mention that if you’re a Hells Angel, you’re basically guaranteed to enjoy Rocky Mountain oysters. For whatever reason, bikers think Bruce’s Bar is the bull’s balls.


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