Top 10 Wild West bars in the US

MINT BAR, SHERIDAN, WYOMING 

Beyond the iconic bucking horse neon light lies a veritable den of taxidermy, with dozens of dead things staring blankly from the walls. A local favourite since 1907, The Mint was originally a speakeasy hidden behind a soda shop. Horses have been known to drink at the bar, and even today it's the domain of pranksters, where your camera might be stolen and returned 15 minutes later, complete with anonymous butt images – yep, that sort of place. See mintbarwyo.com.   

BILLY BOB'S, FORT WORTH, TEXAS 

Built in 1910, this former cattle barn is the world's largest honky-tonk, where country music's shining lights strut their stuff. Holding up to 6000 people, Billy Bob's features 30 individual bar stations, live pro bull riding (on real bulls, not mechanical!) and a massive dance floor where free line-dancing lessons are held every Thursday. See billybobstexas.com.

BUCKET OF BLOOD, VIRGINIA CITY, NEVADA 

With its boardwalks, rickety buildings and mining remnants, the National Historic Landmark of Virginia City is a time capsule of rowdy goldrush days. The Bucket of Blood is one of 10 bars (of the original 125) still standing, reconstructed after the Great Fire of 1875. Today it is loaded with antique furniture, chandeliers, photographs and ornate mirrors, while gunslinging and corseted characters recreate the stomping Wild West atmosphere. See bucketofbloodsaloonvc.com.

OCCIDENTAL HOTEL, BUFFALO, WYOMING 

Faded photographs in this lovingly restored hotel showcase famous visitors who have frequented the Occidental since 1908, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. Embossed tin ceilings, Tiffany lamps and an imposing 7.6-metre  mahogany bar highlight the elegance of the hotel, while 23 bullet holes in the walls and ceiling are testament to more raucous leanings. See occidentalwyoming.com.

5 SALOON #10, DEADWOOD, SOUTH DAKOTA

This is said to be the bar (albeit at a different location) where gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok bit the dust in 1876, shot during a poker game holding what is known as the "dead man's hand" of black aces and eights. The classic Western scene is recreated four times daily in an entertaining play featuring actors in period costume and audience participation. Also a museum, Saloon #10 showcases artefacts from 100 years of cowboy history, as well as the actual chair where Wild Bill met his maker. See saloon10.com.

CRYSTAL PALACE SALOON, TOMBSTONE, ARIZONA 

"Still serving good whiskey and tolerable water" is the catchphrase of the Crystal Palace, in the classic "ghost town" of Tombstone. Occupying a corner location known as "one of the bloodiest intersections in American history", it became known as a "fine dining establishment" and gambling house before prohibition forced its reincarnation as a movie theatre. An impressive replica bar was built in 1964, complete with swinging entry doors. See crystalpalacesaloon.com.

OUTLAW SALOON, CHEYENNE, WYOMING 

Rumour has it that this hardcore honky-tonk moved to the outskirts of Cheyenne to beat the anti-smoking laws in the city. Needless to say, this smoky warehouse is always packed to the rafters, especially during Cheyenne Frontier Days. There are two bars, a dance floor, a stage featuring live entertainment, pool, cornhole and poker tables, and a large courtyard. Signs on restroom doors offering bail advice for felons indicate this is not for the faint-hearted. See cheyenneoutlawsaloon.com.

MENGER BAR, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS 

The oldest continuously operated hotel west of the Mississippi, the Menger – established in 1859 – has seen more cattle deals than any other single location in the US. Its centrepiece bar – built  as an exact replica of London's House of Lords Pub – features a panelled cherrywood ceiling, bevelled mirrors from France, and original brass spittoons. It's also said to be where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders cavalry brigade. A touch of old-world class. See mengerhotel.com.

BUCKHORN EXCHANGE, DENVER, COLORADO 

Located In Denver's oldest neighbourhood, the Buckhorn Exchange – a National Historic Landmark – has been operating since 1893. The interior features  more than 500 pieces of taxidermy, all hunted by original owner, Henry "Shorty Scout" Zietz, a colourful figure who served as a scout for Buffalo Bill Cody. Its restaurant serves buffalo, elk, rattlesnake and "Rocky Mountain Oysters" (that's bull's testicles to the uninformed!) and prides itself on being a unique representation of the Wild West. See buckhorn.com.

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MILLION DOLLAR COWBOY BAR, JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING 

With its impressive neon signage, cowboy murals, saddle bar stools, museum-worthy Western memorabilia, taxidermy wall mounts and knobbled pine architecture, this is as country as it gets, and a great favourite among tourists. The first bar in Wyoming to be granted a liquor licence after prohibition, it is named for the silver dollars inlaid in the bartop. There is live Western music every night except for Sundays. See milliondollarcowboybar.com.

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitor to the USA
See also: America's six most awe-inspiring national parks

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