Learn about this little-known holiday and how it helps preserve American history!
National Day of the Cowboy, celebrated on the 4th Saturday in July, is a growing movement to preserve the pioneer heritage that still exists today. So far, twelve states celebrate this day as an official holiday. From visiting exhibits and artwork in museums, to enjoying activities like rodeos and concerts, there’s a lot of interesting history to learn about.
Why Celebrate Cowboys?
The cowboys often celebrated were cattle ranchers after the American Civil War who would roam independently driving herds. There were also cattle herders before this time in Southeast America dating all the way back to 1523 when the very first cattle were brought to America. The cowboys most recognized today originated in Texas after cattle became wild. The price of cattle was higher outside of Texas, giving herders a reason to risk their lives and drive cattle long distances for profits.
It’s easy to see how this job was fantasized and turned into American legend, since it represents freedom and prosperity. This job was also very tough and required rugged men to do the work. One myth about cowboys often discussed is how they weren’t usually the wise “knightly” types portrayed in movies.
Many cowboys were in their early 20s, and more than a third were African-American or Hispanic. It wasn’t a very well-respected job, and they were considered more like “a hired hand with a borrowed horse,” according to historian David T. Courtwrite.
Nonetheless, American cowboys went down in history for the brief 20-year period they traversed the American Great Plains, and the culture created by them has been passed down for generations to develop the western heritage we recognize today.
Where to Celebrate Western Heritage?
Cowboys influenced many states, from Alabama to California, and Texas to North Dakota! Museums can be found all over that work to preserve not only cowboy culture, but the culture of Native Americans, farmers, drifters and the pioneer women who were survivalists of the Wild West.
The nonprofit, National Day of the Cowboy, helps support monuments, museums, radio shows, scholarships, and publications that preserve western culture, and have listed unique places to visit. I chose a few that you might want to see for yourself:
- The Canadian Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame in Alberta, Canada.
- The Hubble Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona.
- The National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.
- The Leanin’ Tree Museum and Sculpture Garden of Western Art in Boulder, Colorado.
- The Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Oklahoma.
You might also have fun with their list of western-theme activities. Some of these you can do yourself at home, and others you can look for in your own community. It includes a potluck with ranch recipes, country music concerts, a cowboy hat toss, and horseback riding.
From the music cowboys played, to the landmarks they traveled through, they left a big impact on Americans and even the rest of the world.
What is your favorite part about American Western culture? Tell us in the comments below!