Special Report

The 30 Most Famous Cowboys (and Cowgirls) of All Time

Source: Ken Levine / Getty Images

5. Ty Murray (1969- )
> Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Ty Murray was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2000. He’s won nine world championships (seven all-around titles and two bull-riding crowns). He’s also won the most money at one rodeo — $124,821 at the 1993 National Finals Rodeo — and the most money in one year, $297,896, also in 1993. Murray is recognized as the most dominant cowboy of his era.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895)
> Hometown: Bonham, Texas

Like many of the infamous gunslingers in the West, Hardin also tried his hand at ranching for a Texas rancher in 1871. He was trying to lay low after murdering a Texas state police guard who was transferring him to Waco for a trial. However, his hot temper betrayed him on a cattle drive. Hardin got in a dispute with the man in charge of another cattle herd and shot him through the heart. Hardin is also notorious for apparently shooting a man to death in an adjoining hotel room for snoring too loudly.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. Annie Oakley (1860-1926)
> Hometown: Darke County, Ohio

Annie Oakley was the most skilled markswoman of her time. Her shooting ability was such that she earned enough money as a teenager to pay off the mortgage on her family’s home. She was a star attraction with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Oakley astonished audiences by shooting a cigarette off her husband’s lips and hitting the edge of a playing card from 30 paces away.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

2. Will Rogers (1879-1935)
> Hometown: Oologah, Oklahoma

Rogers was an American author, actor, and humorist, earning the sobriquet “The Cowboy Philosopher.” Among his famous quotes is, “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.” Rogers was part Native American and grew up in a ranching family in Oklahoma. He joined traveling Wild West shows and eventually parlayed his lassoing abilities into a vaudeville act. He was killed in a plane crash in Alaska in 1935.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1. Billy the Kid (1859-1881)
> Hometown: New York City, New York

We know Billy the Kid, born Henry McCarty, as a ruthless outlaw in the Old West. But for a time he worked as a cowboy for John Tunstall, a rancher in New Mexico. Billy got involved in a dispute between Tunstall and his business partners over Tunstall’s debt. When the local sheriff and his posse attempted to seize Tunstall’s cattle, Tunstall was killed. Billy was a witness, but before the sheriff was arrested, Billy was tossed into jail. Upon release, he embarked on the Old West’s most famous criminal career.

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