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There’s a time to move fast and a time to move slow. Only a good cowboy knows when.


Giddyup! Ride ‘em Cowboy!

Celebrate this symbol of the American West by learning about and appreciating the National Day of the Cowboy.

History of National Day of the Cowboy

Following the Civil War, many men moved west looking for ways to work and make a living. One of the attractions of the American frontier was the relative freedom, as well as the option to become cowboys who could access free range cattle.

The “Wild West”, beginning in the 1860s through the end of the 19th century, became a time of a bit of chaos on the frontier where gangs of criminals were easily bred. Infamous cowboys, like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and John Wesley Hardin were outlaws who committed various robberies, cattle rustling and even murder.

First sponsored in the US Senate in 2005, National Day of the Cowboy was originally brought about by Wyoming’s US Senator at the time, Craig Thomas.

Former president Bush said this about the National Day of the Cowboy: “We celebrate the Cowboy as a symbol of the grand history of the American West. The Cowboy’s love of the land and love of the country are examples for all Americans.”

National Day of the Cowboy Timeline


The term “cowboy” is first being used 

Jonathan Swift uses the word in his famous book, Gulliver’s Travels, but it really just means a boy who tends cows.[1]


The “Wild West” period begins

After the American Civil War, many men head to Texas where free-ranging cattle are available for any cowboy who wants to round them up – and the popularity of eating beef increases.[2]


“Billy the Kid” is first arrested 

This infamous cowboy criminal is a gunfighter, murderer, fugitive, cattle rustler, and eventually dies at the young age of 21.[3]


John Wayne first appears in film 

The Big Trail is the first movie that actor “Duke” Morrison makes in what will be a series of more than 75 films over his lifetime.[4]


Dallas Cowboys are founded 

In the early days of the National Football League (NFL), the Dallas Cowboys franchise was established and went on to become an extremely popular team.[5]

How to Celebrate National Day of the Cowboy

Celebrating National Day of the Cowboy can be loads of fun in a variety of ways! Try out some of these delightful ideas to enjoy the day:

Dress Like a Cowboy

This can be a way to connect with your inner cowboy by wearing some special gear to work, to school or just while running daily errands. Try out some basic blue jeans, some clever cowboy boots, a leather vest and a western shirt (complete with shell snaps!).

Perhaps try a bolo tie or a handkerchief tied around the neck. And, of course, it would be appropriate to top it all off with an enormous cowboy hat. The bigger, the better!

Listen to a Cowboy Song Playlist

Because they typically hail from the southwest, cowboys may have a particular style of music they enjoy. National Day of the Cowboy would be a perfect time to create a list of songs that give a nod to the tunes of these unique characters:

  • Mommas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (1978). This one was originally recorded by Ed Bruce in 1976, but this more popular version was recorded two years later.
  • Cowboy Take Me Away by The Chicks–formerly Dixie Chicks (1999). A play on the phrase “Calgon Take Me Away”, from the famous slogan from bath product commercials, this song reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart in February 2000.
  • Cowboy Cassanova by Carrie Underwood (2009). Released on Underwood’s third studio album, Play On, the single was certified 2x Platinum.
  • The Cowboy in Me by Tim McGraw (2001). Written by Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson and Craig Wiseman, this song made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart that year.

Visit a Rodeo

A great time for enjoying all things related to National Day of the Cowboy, visiting the rodeo can be an amazing experience! Regular events include activities such as steer wrestling, bull riding, calf roping, steer roping, bareback horse, barrel racing and saddle bronc riding. Of course, don’t forget the scorecard for keeping score.

Don’t forget to wear the above-mentioned cowboy gear when headed to the rodeo. Those who are lucky might get to see a rodeo clown. Perhaps even try riding the mechanical bull!

Follow Some Sage Cowboy Advice

Cowboys from the Wild West have lived a great deal of life and have tons of experience! With all of that experience comes a great deal of wisdom and they have often been known to share their advice with others in clever phrases, like “Don’t squat with your spurs on”, or “Never corner something meaner than you”.

Enjoy a few of these phrases and consider sharing them with friends, family and coworkers in honor of National Day of the Cowboy. Some of them might even be fun to have printed on a t-shirt to wear on the day:

  • “Don’t go in if you don’t know the way out.”
  • “If you get thrown from a horse, you have to get up and get back on, unless you landed on a cactus; then you have to roll around and scream in pain.”
  • “Some cowboys have too much tumbleweed in their blood to settle down.”
  • “If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya.”

Watch Some Cowboy Movies

One of the great film settings of all time, the Wild West is the perfect place for cowboy movies to be made! This day offers a great time to enjoy a collection of classic Western movies in honor of National Day of the Cowboy! Try out one (or all!) of these:

  • True Grit (1969). One of John Wayne’s most famous movies, this film features a US Marshal and Texas Ranger who chases down a murderer in dangerous territory. It was remade in 2010, starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld and Josh Brolin.
  • Rango (2011). Fun for adults and family members alike, this computer animated Western comedy film stars Johnny Depp who voices a chameleon character who accidentally gets stranded in the desert.
  • The Lone Ranger (1956). This classic cowboy film was based on the American television series of the same name that was from 1949-1957, starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.
  • No Country for Old Men (2007). Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Woody Harrelson are the all-star cast in this modern Western crime thriller movie created by the Coen brothers. Based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, this film won a huge array of film awards.

National Day of the Cowboy FAQs

Are cowboys real?

Yes. Although they are less common than they may have been several decades ago, the American cowboy continues in places like Colorado, Texas, Montana, and even Connecticut.[1]

How did cowboys dress?

Cowboys are known for their pointy leather cowboy boots, vests with pockets and very large cowboy hats.[2]

What are cowboy hats made of?

Cowboy hats are typically made of either felt or straw. Less commonly, they can be made of leather.[3]

Do cowboys ride cows?

No! Cowboys ride horses, of course. They are called cowboys because they take care of and drive cattle herds.[4]

How do cowboys talk?

Depending on where they are from, cowboys may have unique phrases like “Howdy Partner”, “Giddyup”, “City Slicker”, and “Head ‘em up and move ‘em out”.[5]

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