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This July, respect the cowboy


When: July 23

What: Wrapped in legends and nostalgia, the cowboy has become an icon for independence, understated resilience, and justice. With all the mythos surrounding the classic American cowboy, it’s easy to forget that the cowboys of the 19th century were real people who played a vital role in shaping the West and American culture. Their influence is still seen today in art, ranching, and even conservationism. During the National Day of the Cowboy on July 23, recognize the American cowboy and honor his principles.

Background: The first National Day of the Cowboy was celebrated in 2005. Since then, several states throughout the U.S. have recognized the day through proclamations. A key supporter, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, sponsored a resolution to recognize the day nationally and worked with her husband, NASA commander Mark Kelly, to fly its official flag on the International Space Station. Held in July, the day aims to preserve the spirit of the American cowboy, especially his quiet respect for the lands and animals of the West. Celebrated with events like rodeos, Western music performances, poetry readings, art exhibits, and shooting demonstrations, the day recognizes the major cultural impact the cowboy has had. While called the Day of the Cowboy, the event also encompasses cowgirls and women of the West.

Story Pitch: The National Day of the Cowboy recognizes many aspects of the cowboy, including their work with cattle, their ethos and cowboy mythology. Remembering that the cow is inseparable from the cowboy, ranchers and meat suppliers can recognize cowboy herding and cattle raising techniques that were good for the mental and physical well-being of cows, and discuss how methods are used today. Meanwhile, companies with roots in the Old West and Western wear manufacturers can market their goods, while the entertainment industry can promote literature and films depicting our country’s cowyboys. Since cowboys helped open up the American West, parks and historical sites can promote tours detailing the heyday of the cowboy. Ranches can also attract tourists by promoting themselves as a destination for modern cowboys and girls.

Story Hook: In the days long before the cowboy, herds of grazing bison created the American grasslands. These lands became the home of the nomadic cowboy, and their cattle helped maintain the health of the land by regulating growth cycles. Cattle rearing changed in the 20th century, moving indoors and leaving many grasslands to turn into desert. Modern grassland management techniques use grass-fed cattle to revitalize and improve the health of these lands, with many of the techniques rooted in old cowboy knowledge. The managed grazing of cows actually simulates the grazing of bison. Is this better for the cows? What are the implications of using the land for cattle rearing? Is the milk or beef healthier or better-tasting? Consider the following as you make your pitch:

  • How can kids learn more about raising animals? How about riding and caring for horses?
  • Who are some famous cowboys, both from the Old West and more modern times? How have they influenced our history?
  • How realistic are depictions of cowboys in literature and film?
  • Reverence for the Western landscape is in the hearts of all cowboys. How has this respect influenced modern conservation efforts?

Tips: Provide contact information for a modern cowboy who can talk about how following old traditions has improved ranching and the welfare of animals. A historian specializing in cowboys and the Old West is also a great contact who can provide insight into their lives.



National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
Fort Worth
Museum of Science and History
(817) 255-9300

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
(405) 478-2250

National Day of the Cowboy Organization
(928) 759-0951


National Institute for Animal Agriculture
(719) 538-8843

–Researched, compiled & written by Kristina Elliott
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