In Defense Of: Rocky Mountain oysters, beloved bovine balls

Scott Powell

graphic illustration of a newscaster covered in thrown tomatoes and eggs reporting the words "in Defense of"
(Graphic illustration by Charlie Dillon | The Collegian)

We Coloradans are a strange breed. No other state welcomes its air-traveling visitors with a red-eyed hell-stallion or holds summer festivals celebrating cryogenically frozen corpses.

Now, the Centennial State’s affection for marijuana has attracted an eclectic crowd of characters who come for the dope and stay for the slopes, but the Rocky Mountains were kooky long before they discovered doobies. Case in point, the delicacy of Rocky Mountain oysters — mammal testicles, typically from a bull, that are often deep-fried or otherwise prepared to eat. 


The castrated culinary sensation’s roots reach back to the Manifest Destiny of the 1800s, when ranchers first began serving up their livestock’s snipped scrotal remains for supper. Yes, it seems that it wasn’t the Boulder-bound hipsters and cannabis connoisseurs that came up with the laughable dish, but rather the old-fashioned, foulmouthed frontiersmen with their shotguns and trusty steeds named Bullet.

 The truth is, Rocky Mountain oysters are not nearly as terrifying as they seem. For starters, they are delicious.”

Since the pioneers’ initial discovery of these broiled bulls’ balls, Rocky Mountain oysters have become one of the most divisive dishes in the Western world. They are truly the Nickelback of regional American cuisines, the kind of food that people have a Pavlovian revulsion to by reputation alone, regardless of whether or not they’ve ever actually tried it. 

But is our scorn of these testosterone-toting appetizers really fair? After all, what right do we as Americans have to judge these treats? We Americans readily consume Jell-O, made from the gelatin procured by boiling animal bones, hot dogs and other mystery meat links — there’s a reason you don’t ask how the sausage is made.

In this time of severe cultural realignment, as we work to broaden our horizons and diversify our myths, our cultural history and our societal institutions, should we not broaden our palettes as well? The truth is, Rocky Mountain oysters are not nearly as terrifying as they seem. For starters, they are delicious.

Boasting a gamey, chewy texture with a venison-like taste, Rocky Mountain oysters in many ways are a more traditional tasting meal than the slick, slimeball sea creatures from which their nickname is derived — mollusks whose sapor is so cringeworthy, we swallow them whole so as to avoid actually having to taste them as we eat them. If you consume your dinner the same way you do your horse-sized morning multivitamin, it’s time to switch up your menu. So why not switch it up with some good old-fashioned, deep-fried gonads?

And even here in Fort Collins, there’s no shortage of restaurants ready and willing to serve up the battered bovine balls. Curious parties can find the delicacy at local restaurants like Jim’s Wings or The Colorado Room. Those who want a more authentic experience can even visit Bruce’s Bar and Restaurant, only 30 minutes away in Severance, Colorado, perhaps the most famous oyster bar in the state.

Scott Powell can be reached at or on Twitter @scottysseus.