Bred in a time of hardship, adventure, and exploration, the cowboy is the legendary symbol of the American West. These pioneers would spend time herding cattle and working on the cattle ranches of the Old West. Traditionally spending much of his day on horseback, the historical American Cowboy rose from the traditions of the Mexican vaqueros to become figures of legend.
Today, cowboys are used as a symbol to promote all sorts of things from chuck wagon buffets to steakhouses.
Cowboys were usually just settlers traveling west from the American eastern seaboard, often having emigrated from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries and looking for a new life in what was known as the American Frontier. Others went on cattle drives moving herds from Texas up North. Here are some cowboy slogans and quotes that capture this truly American imagery.
- Cowboys for life.
- The toughest guys in town.
- We know how to get job done.
- There’s none like a cowboy.
- Unless you are a cowboy, you can’t enjoy the life that much.
- Nothing changes for a cowboy.
- When my time comes, leave me with my horse.
- Cowboys are made out of the mud.
- Guts and blood, that’s all you need to become a cowboy.
- There is no time wasted in the saddle.
- Save a horse ride a cowboy.
- A horse is the mirror of cowboy.
- Turning cowboys into real men.
- The last ride is never the last ride.
- The best way to describe a cowboy is mud, blood, and sweat.
- No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.
- Only a cowboy can understand the joy of riding a horse.
- A real cowboy knows the pain.
- Cowboys don’t cry.
- Ride like a cowboy.
- You can’t make any money if you hit the ground.
- A cowboy is a person who loves his horse.
- A cowboy always loves his girl.
Old West Slogans
- We love the pain of falling off a horse.
- A cowboy never hits first. He hits last.
- Where the leather is scarred, there is a great story to tell.
- A cowboy’s hand is as strong as steel.
- A good cowboy knows how to treat his horse.
- You can tell a true cowboy by the type of horse that he rides.
- When you lose, try not to lose the lesson.
- The only good reason to ride a bull is to meet a nurse.
- The horse is always the mirror of the cowboy’s soul.
- Remember the silence; it’s the silence before a cowboy arrives.
- Never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody.
- A cowboy never corners something meaner than them.
- Never approach a horse from a rear side.
- May your horse never stumble, may your cinch never break.
- To be a cowboy, first learn to ride a horse.
- It doesn’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
- He is all hat and no cattle.
- Head them up, move them out.
- Cowboy coffee isn’t safe drinking.
- Saddle up or shut the hell up.
- Cowboy up or sit in the truck.
- They need nothing, except a hat and a horse to ride.
- May your belly never grumble, and your horse never stumble.
- Cowboys are all so tough from outside.
Inspirational Cowboy Quotes
- “Let him ride a horse. He’s a cowboy ain’t he?” – Nathanael West.
- “That was the trouble with explaining with words. If you explained with gunpowder, people listened.” – Dean F. Wilson.
- “I’m really a-howling!” – Jack Schaefer.
- “Training horses, heck riding horses, isn’t easy. Failing is part of the process. It’s how you brush yourself off and get back in the saddle that counts the most. There’s beauty in the breakdown. Everything is about balance.” – Carly Kade.
“There is no better place to heal a broken heart than on the back of a horse.” – Missy Lyons.
- “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway!” – John Wayne.
- “I think I was probably a cowboy in a past life.” – Gin Wigmore.
- “It ain’t where, it’s how you live. We weren’t raised to take, but we were raised to give the shirt off our back to anyone in need.” – Brantley Gilbert.
- “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” – Arthur Baer.
- “True cowboys are the ones who aren’t afraid to get dirty.” – Lane Frost.
- “Whoever said a horse was dumb, was dumb.” – Will Rogers.
- “It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live.” – Robert Duvall as Gus McCrae, ‘Lonesome Dove’.
- “Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.” – Will Rogers.
- “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne.
- “I have horses, I drive a truck, and I wear cowboy boots. First I’m a Texan.” – Henry Thomas.
- “When you stop fighting, that’s death.” – John Wayne.
“When you’re young and fall off a horse, you may break something, when you’re my age and you fall off, you splatter.” – Roy Rogers.
- “A cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.” – William James.
- “I’m from Texas, and one of the reasons I like Texas is because there’s no one in control.” – Willie Nelson.
- “When my time comes, just skin me and put me up there on Trigger, just as though nothing had ever changed.” – Roy Rogers.
- “Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.” – Will Rogers.
- “Always drink upstream from the herd.” – Will Rogers.
- “You see, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend – those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.” – Clint Eastwood.
- “Well, there are some things a man can’t just run away from.” – John Wayne.
- “I’ve often said there is nothing better for the inside of the man, than the outside of the horse.” – Ronald Reagan.
- “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” – John Wayne.
Here are some simple translations of commonly used cowboy phrases.
- howdy = hi
- howdy partner = hi there friend
- ya’ll = all of you
- ya = you
- giddy up = let’s go (often said while riding to a horse)
- Head ’em up, move ’em out. = Let’s go. (Let’s move these cattle.)
- a dude = a person who tries to dress like and talk like a cowboy, but really is a city person
- wet your whistle = have a drink (usually alcohol)
- hoedown = a dance
- a half-wit = a stupid person
- city-slicker = a person from the city
- tenderfoot or greenhorn = a new person
- hoosegow or calaboose= jail
- namby-pamby = not brave
- pony up = hurry up
- skedaddle = get out of here
- the jig is up = the game is over; the truth has been exposed
- He’s a goner. = He’s dead.
- by hook or crook = any way possible
- in cahoots = doing something in secret
- yokel = a person from the country (not the city)
- yonder = over there
- saloon = bar/restaurant
Words of the Old West
- “For my handling of the situation at Tombstone, I have no regrets. Were it to be done again; I would do it exactly as I did it at the time.” —Wyatt Earp, lawman
- “Wild Bill was a strange character, add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatness of the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of a frontiersman, you have Wild Bill, the most famous scout on the Plains.” – General George Custer, writing about Wild Bill Hickok.
- “A jail is just like a nutshell with a worm in it; the worm will always get out.” — John Dillinger several weeks before he bluffed his way out of the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana.
- “Never run a bluff with a six-gun.” – Bat Masterson
- “You may hear of a killing if everything works right… but it may be some time yet.” — Texas Ranger Ira Aten to Capt. L. P. Sieker in 1888.
- “Can’t you hurry this up a bit? I hear they eat dinner in Hades at twelve sharp, and I don’t aim to be late.” – Black Jack Ketchum, just before he was hanged at Clayton, New Mexico on April 26, 1901.
“They say I killed six or seven men for snoring. It ain’t true. I only killed one man for snoring.” — John Wesley Hardin.
- “Where the Indian killed one buffalo, the hide and tongue hunters killed fifty.” — Chief Red Cloud
- “But you won’t be here to see any of ’em; not by a damn sight, because it’s the order of this court that you be took to the nearest tree and hanged by the neck til you’re dead, dead, dead, you olive-colored son of a billy goat.” — Judge Roy Bean
- “The Seventh can handle anything it meets.” – General George A. Custer while declining reinforcements for the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
- “I’m not afraid to die like a man fighting, but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed.” – Billy the Kid (William Bonney) in a letter to Governor Lew Wallace, March 1879.
“Leave me alone and let me go to hell by my own route.” – Calamity Jane shortly before she died in Deadwood, South Dakota, in 1903.
- “You’all can go to hell. I am going to Texas.” — Davy Crockett after serving three terms as a Tennessee congressman.
- “Whenever you get into a row, be sure and not shoot too quick. Take time. I’ve known many a feller slip up for shootin in a hurry.” — Wild Bill Hickok
- “I know the law… I am its greatest transgressor.” — Judge Roy Bean
- “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.” — Daniel Boone
- He was mad enough to swallow a horn-toad backwards.
- He’s so mean he’d steal a fly from a blind spider.
- He was so mean, he’d fight a rattler and give him the first bite.
- He was mean enough to steal a coin off a dead man’s eyes.
- He was uglier than a new-sheared sheep.
- He has teeth so crooked he could eat corn on the cob through a picket fence.
- He’s as ugly as homemade sin.
- He was crazy enough to eat the devil with horns on.
- His intelligence shore ain’t at this camp.
- He is as crazy as a sheepherder.
- He couldn’t teach a hen to cluck.
- His knife’s so dull it wouldn’t cut hot butter.
- He don’t know dung from wild honey.
- He couldn’t cut a lame cow from a shade tree.
- He had a ten-dollar Stetson on a five-cent head.
- His family tree was a shrub.
- He didn’t have nuthin’ under his hat but hair.
- He couldn’t hit the ground with his hat in three throws.
- He was grinnin like a weasel in a hen house.
- He’s as pleased as a pup with 2 tails.
- He’s grinnin like a jack ass eatin cactus
- She was as chipper as a jaybird.
- He was grinnin’ like a baked possum.
- His singin’ was enough to make a she-wolf jealous.
- He couldn’t hit a bull’s rump with a handful of banjos.
- He was as drunk as a fiddler’s clerk.
- She’s as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
- He ain’t fit to shoot at when you want to unload and clean yo’ gun.
- He’s as welcome as a rattlesnake at a square dance.
- She’s as pretty as a speckled pup.
- He’s as rich as possum gravy.
Funny Cowboy Quotes
- “It is easier to get an actor to be a cowboy than to get a cowboy to be an actor.”
- “The only good reason to ride a bull is to meet a nurse.”
- “The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket.”
- “There are two theories to arguin’ with a woman. Neither one works.”
- “No man should have cowboys boots in his wardrobe. That’s fair enough, isn’t it? Unless you’re a cowboy, of course.”
- “From an early age children play ‘cowboys and Indians’, Nobody ever plays ‘UN peacekeeping force’.”
- “If cowboys picked wives like they pick horses, they would have lifelong mates.”
- “I’m a cowboy who never saw a cow.”
- “Cowboys and men are two totally different breeds.”
- “Cowboys ride horses. Shouldn’t they be called horseboys?”
- “Asking to borrow someone’s saddle is like asking to borrow someone’s girlfriend, you just don’t do that.”
- “Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.”
- “The horse stopped with a jerk—and the jerk fell off!”
- “We all got pieces of crazy in us, some bigger pieces than others.”
- “Don’t mess with something that ain’t bothering you.”
Western Cowboy Sayings
- When you’re a cowboy, life isn’t all about horses and rodeo’s. It’s about mud and dirt, and cowboy boots.
- A true cowboy knows love, pain, and shame but never cares about fame.
- Cowboy is a breed tougher than nails and strong as steel.
- Take my man, stay away from my horse.
- Rope’em, tie’em, hold’em down and ride’em! Giddy up Cowboy.
- Cowboys are born, they ain’t made!
- A cowboy is a gentleman with or without his hat and boots.
- There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode; never was a cowboy who couldn’t be throwed.
- You can tell a true cowboy by the type of horse that he rides.
- Real cowboys never run, they just ride away.
- When in doubt, let your horse do the thinkin’.
- Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town.
- Generally, you ain’t learnin’ nothin’ when your mouth’s a-jawin’.
- Cowboys don’t walk round callin’ themselves cowboys.
- If it ain’t dirty, it ain’t fun.
- Don’t squat with your spurs on.
- Talk slowly, think quickly.
- The cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man or take unfair advantage.
- He’s all hat and no cattle.
- Horses are my spirit animals
- Home is where my horse is
- A horse is the most faithful animal.
- A horse never disobeys his master.
- Sit on its back and ride it.
- Never try to go hard on a horse.
- It’s always fun to be with your horse.
- Eating, sleeping, and horse riding regularly.
- A horse is always ready for riding.
- Keep calm and gallop on.
- Keep calm and start riding.
- Let Your Spirit Run Free.
- A Horse Can Change a Life.
- Addicted to horses.
- As Free As Our Horses.
- Blessed From Hoof To Head.
- Breeding Greatness.
- Building Stable Relationships.
- Come ride with me.
- Eat. Sleep. Ride.
- For The Love Of Horses.
- For The Rider In Us All.
- From The Ground To The Saddle.
- Get a life. Get a horse.
- Gone riding. Gone wild.
- Hold your horses.
- Home is where my horse is.
- I am the crazy horse lady.
- I was brought up in a stable.
- If I’m clean I haven’t been to the stables.
- If you need a reason to ride, you are not on the right horse.
- It’s a horse thing, you wouldn’t understand.
- It’s ride time.
- Just horsing around.
What is a group of cowboys called?
If you are familiar with the old westerns you already know a group of cowboys is known as a “posse.” This is true when a group of law men is tracking down bank robbers and outlaws. And even in those days, the term came from the Latin legal term “posse comitatus” meaning “force of the country”.
But there were also other names used at the time, and one popular term used for a group of cowboys “back east” was a “Saunter of Cowboys”, a term of venery codified by James Lipton from his book, Exaltation of Larks.
What’s the attitude of a cowboy?
What makes a cowboy? While some may say it was the hat and the horse, more often than not it was really their doggedness and willingness to keep going even when facing insurmountable obstacles. The attitude of a cowboy is toughness often brought about by a lack of creature comforts.
In most literature of the time, the cowboy was renowned for having an attitude of never giving up, even after experiencing failure upon failure. For men working on ranches all hours of the day or night, and in all weathers, they had an attitude of constant effort.
Suffice to say, the attitude of the cowboy is very different from having a cowboy attitude.