The series ran for eight seasons on the CBS network on Friday nights, from January 9, 1959 to January 4, 1966, with a total of 217 episodes, all filmed and broadcast in black and white. It was produced and sometimes directed by Charles Marquis Warren who also produced early episodes of Gunsmoke. Warren based Rawhide on the movie Cattle Empire that he directed in 1958 and for which Endre Bohem was a screenwriter and Paul Brinegar, Steve Raines and Rocky Shahan were actors; all also worked in Rawhide. Its premiere episode reached the top 20 in the Nielsen Ratings. It rose steadily in popularity until, towards the end of the series run, it was one of America's top ten shows. Rawhide was the fifth-longest-running American TV western, beaten only by nine years of The Virginian and Wagon Train, fourteen years of Bonanza, and twenty years of Gunsmoke.
The show had a gruelling schedule, being mostly weekly with a 3-4 month break between seasons. After the first season of 22 episodes, seasons 2-7 were 30 episodes. Often the only way the lead actors could get a break was if they were said to be off on business. On rare occasions, the show would feature a small number of the actors and some misfortune, maybe in a town, which would give the others time off.