Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington wrote this as the theme song for the CBS TV show Rawhide, which ran from 1959 to 1966. The show launched the career of Clint Eastwood, who starred with Eric Fleming as a cowboy on a cattle drive. Since the show had a Western theme, the composer Tiomkin and lyricist Washington were asked to write the music, as they had written songs for some famous Western movies, including High Noon and Wild Is The Wind.
The song simulates the sounds of a cattle drive, as the cattleman is calling out instructions and cracking his whip. Rawhide is animal hide that has not been treated and made into leather - it's commonly used to make whips.
This song popularized the phrase "Hell Bent For Leather," which Judas Priest used as the title for their 1978 album and its title track.
The Blues Brothers renewed popularity in the song when they performed it in their 1980 movie. The song has been used in many other movies, TV shows and commercials. Some of the movies its appeared in include City Slickers, Shrek 2 and Good Morning, Vietnam.
Leonard Maurice from AustraliaTiomkin's Russian background is evident. He's borrowed a larg chunk of the melodic and rhythmic construction from this old Russian/Ukranian folksong depicting a jail-break. On You Tube, use this URL suffix: /watch?v=k-OxMYarQyg to hear an old recording of the original.