Classic Cowboys

Legendary Cowboys

National Day of the Cowboy Western Horseman Covers

Over the past 87 years, the cover of Western Horseman has featured legendary cowboys from all aspects of Western life.

What makes a cowboy legendary? In addition to gumption and grit, it requires an unbreakable bond with the Western way of life. From 1950s rodeo icon Casey Tibbs to the late Western humorist Baxter Black to actor and director Robert Redford, Western Horseman has proudly shared legendary cowboys’ stories with readers for decades. Join us in revisiting some of our favorite past issues, each featuring a cowboy who used his skills and talents to embody the Western spirit.

Casey Tibbs — June 1956

On the Cover: Casey Tibbs doesn’t need any introduction to readers of The Western Horseman, and we think this color shot by Clarence Coil at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo is one of the best pictures of the popular All Around Champion we’ve seen.

Trevor Brazile — August 2005

On the Cover: Trevor Brazile photographed at his home arena in Decatur, Texas, by John Brasseaux.

Robert Redford — December 1997

On the Cover: Robert Redford stars as Tom Booker in “The Horse Whisperer”, a movie based on the best-selling novel of the same name. The movie was filmed this spring and summer in New York state and the ranching country of Montana. Western Horseman was one of only two publications in the nation allowed to visit the set.

Red Steagall — January 2018

On the Cover: Musician and cowboy poet Red Steagall promotes and preserves Western culture. Steagall was our 2018 Western Horseman Award winner. Photo by Ross Hecox.

2017 Western Horseman Award winner Al Dunning.

About the Western Horseman Award

The Western Horseman Award was instituted in 2005 to recognize outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to the Western stock horse industry. In selecting candidates for the award, the magazine looks for men and women who embody values the magazine embraces: impeccable Western horsemanship; a commitment to education, authenticity and ethics; and a passion for the Western way of life.

Red gained worldwide fame as a chart-topping songwriter and performer of country music during the 1970s and 1980s. During the mid-1980s, he shifted into cowboy poetry, and then began recording Western music albums that celebrated ranch life, Western heritage and cowboy values. His radio program, Cowboy Corner, and television show, Somewhere West of Wall Street, do the same. His annual Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering also celebrates cowboy culture and has awarded nearly $1 million in scholarships to youth from agricultural backgrounds.

Past Western Horseman Award recipients include Ray Hunt (2005), Buster Welch (2006), Bob Moorhouse (2007), Craig Haythorn (2008), Ian Tyson (2010), Jack Brainard (2011), Robert Miller, DVM (2012), Buck Brannaman (2013), Larry Mahan (2014), Dick Pieper (2015), Pam Minick (2016), Al Dunning (2017) and Buck Taylor (2019).

Tom Selleck — July 2005

On the Cover: Cowboy and actor Tom Selleck is profiled in the July 2005 article “Selleck, the Horseman,” by contributor Eric O’Keefe. Randall Cordero, of Cordero Studios, photographed Selleck in the ranch country of Southern California.

Ty Murray — November 2007

On the Cover: Ty Murray is the most recognizable of his generation of rodeo competitors. A legend by his early 30s, he retired from competition as the sport’s top rough-stock cowboy. Photograph by Kurt Markus.

Ian Tyson — January 2010

On the Cover: The late cowboy, singer and songwriter Ian Tyson, pictured with his horse Purple Pop, received the 2010 Western Horseman Award at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Photograph by Ross Hecox.

Baxter Black — September 2009

On the Cover: The late cowboy humorist Baxter Black shows his true character at his home in Benson, Arizona. Photograph by Gene Peach.

Nick Dowers — January 2016

On the Cover: Nevada horseman Nick Dowers gives his show horses plenty of time on the range. Photo by Ross Hecox.

Ray Hunt — January 2005

On the Cover: Ray Hunt, photographed by Robert Dawson at an Oregon clinic in 2004. Hunt was the 2005 Western Horseman of the Year.

Buck Brannaman — May 2013

On the Cover: 2013 Western Horseman Award recipient Buck Brannaman at his Sheridan, Wyoming, ranch.

Stran Smith — November 2010

On the Cover: The late, great Topper (Topofthemarket), ridden by Stran Smith, is remembered as the best tie-down roping horse of the decade. Photo by John Brasseaux.

Larry Mahan — September 2007

On the Cover: The late, great Larry Mahan and his Quarter Horse stallion, Nitos Smart Jewel, take a break at Saddle Soar North, Mahan’s Colorado ranch. Photograph by Darrell Dodds.

Buster Welch — January 2006

On the Cover: The late Texas rancher and cutting horse trainer Buster Welch received the Western Horseman Award in 2006. Photograph by John Brasseaux.

Don Edwards — June 2007

On the Cover: The late Western musician Don Edwards drew on his passion for cowboy culture when crafting lyrics about life on the range. Photograph by John Brasseaux.

Who are your legendary cowboys?

Who would you add to this list of legendary cowboys? Comment on this article to let us know your picks.

4 thoughts on “Legendary Cowboys”

  1. Hands down – the legendary Boots O’Neil

    90+ years old and still horseback daily doing honest work
    at the Sixes

    A cowboy for 8 decades, Boots has looked over the backs of hundreds of thousands of cattle. Of course, he has stories that he lived and that cover all those years; stories of men, horses, cattle and wrecks that delight his audiences that listen in rapt attention.

    A gentleman in every sense of the word. Dedicated to cattle, good horses, and the people who love the same. A true inspiration to young and old.

    I have the distinct pleasure of knowing Boots, riding beside him at the Sixes, and encouraging him to share just one more story before we turn in for the night.

    Please feature Boots now and provide the respect and honor he undoubtedly deserves
    Thank you
    Ed Cowling

  2. Love the western magazine and the articles are Great. I have many old copies I read over and over. Would love to get them again. I was born in 1941 and always had horses and ponies and mules. My mule died. last year and I miss my Molly Miller so much. I got her as 2 year. Old and we never listed a parade or show. . she was a 50 inch mule and always had a cowboys for Christ or American Flag in shows and parades. I am 82 years and Hope I can find another one. Scooter love Parades and flag carrying.. I am looking for another to replace Scooter. Now I am crying so will go. Scooter will be waiting at the gates of Heaven when I pass..

  3. So many good cowboys, both past and present. Most though never look for fame or recognition. Trying to make a hand and taking care of family, friends, and business is enough.
    Long live cowboys,
    9 Fingers.


Leave a Comment