Bootleggers in the days of prohibition, used many tricks to avoid detection. The crazier the caper, the more it reflects just how much money this black market trade was bringing in, and of course, just how much America wanted its booze back.
Cow shoes were used by bootleggers to cover their footprints in the woods going to and from Moonshine brewery sites were hidden. The hoof prints were supposed to deter law enforcement who often tried tracking criminal operations by looking for human footprints in the forest.
A 1922 article from a now-defunct St. Petersburg, Florida newspaper called the Evening Independent, had the story…
“Shiners wear cow shoes”
A new method of evading prohibition agents was revealed here today by A.L. Allen, state prohibition enforcement director, who displayed what he called a “cow shoe” as the latest thing front the haunts of moonshiners.
The cow shoe is a strip of metal to which is tacked a wooden block carved to resemble the hoof of a cow, which may be strapped to the human foot. A man shod with a pair of them would leave a trail resembling that of a cow.
The shoe found was picked up near Port Tampa where a still was located some time ago. It will be sent to the prohibition department at Washington. Officers believe the inventor got his idea from a Sherlock Holmes story in which the villain shod his horse with shoes the imprint of which resembled those of a cow’s hoof.
By the 1920s, all conceivable products were used to disguise and camouflage alcohol shipments, from Holy bibles to canned fruit (floating in alcohol) to Christmas tree packaging– and my least favourite: carloads of pig carcasses stuffed with whiskey.
Long before Pablo Escobar and his Colombian buddies were sending cocaine through the jungles in homemade submarines, the Prohibition bootleggers were firing torpedoes laden with whiskey from Canadian waters to the American side of the Great Lakes.
With the supply of alcohol cut off, rum runners turned to Canada, which had favourable liquor laws. Near the Canadian border, Detroit became a bootlegger’s dream town during the Prohibition, especially the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and other waterways between Michigan and Ontario.