“A cowboy is a man with guts and a horse” is usually credited to Will James (1892-1942), a cowboy artist and author. (Will James is not to be confused with the philosopher William James.) Will James wrote many articles and books in the 1920s and 1930s, and this “guts and a horse” quote is documented from at least 1922.
Cowboy Sayings and Quotes
A cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.
Topics in Kansas History: Old West
Each spring from 1866 - 1885, Texas longhorns were driven to railheads in Kansas or farther north to stock the open ranges. It took about a dozen cowboys to trail 2,000 head of cattle. Herd size ranged from around 1,000 head in the early years to 3,000 - 4,000 later on. For their labors, cowboys earned between $25 and $40 a month, plus their food.
Most cowboys were young men, in their late teens or early twenties, and single. One 19th-century definition of a “cowboy” was “anybody with guts and a horse.” They needed to be strong to survive the harsh conditions of trail life.
A cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.
“A cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.”
William James quotes (American Philosopher and Psychologist, leader of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism, 1842-1910)
Wikipedia: Will James (artist)
Will James (1892-1942), artist and writer, was born Joseph Ernest Nephtali Dufault, June 6, 1892 in Quebec province, Canada. It was during his creative years everyone grew to know him as Will James.
Will James: Cowboy Artist and Author
A special exhibition at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage explores the tragic and fascinating life of artist and author Will James. On view in the Showcase Gallery from Oct. 3, 1997, through Jan. 4, 1998, Will James: Cowboy Artist and Author provides a rare opportunity for visitors to appreciate the artistic skills of the author of such American classics as Smoky and
James’ work, which includes 25 beloved novels, continues to appeal to a large audience who grew up reading his books and to new generations of horse fanciers and cowboy fans. This intimate presentation draws on an unmatched collection of approximately 75 paintings and drawings featuring the private collection of A.P. Hays, Paradise Valley, Arizona, as well as first edition books, numerous early drawings and a newly acquired oil painting from the museum’s collection.
James’ literary career began in the early 1920s, when the lanky cowboy from Nevada sent an essay and illustrations to Scribner’s New York offices. The easy-going, storytelling quality of his writing, illustrated with his own drawings and paintings, made for a winning combination that was quickly recognized by editor Maxwell Evarts Perkins, who worked with Thomas Wolfe, Emest Hemingway and other literary giants. James’ first novel, Smoky, won the Newbery Medal in 1927 as the most significant contribution in American literature that year for children, establishing his place as an enduring writer of note. All 25 of his books are still in print.
Born in Canada as Ernest Dufaut, James left home to be a cowboy. Along with a new name, he manufactured a new identity, claiming different parents and birth in Montana. Despite acclaim and success in the literary world, his life was tragic. A brief prison term for rustling, a tumultuous marriage and devotion to drink contributed to his untimely death in 1942 at age 50.
September 1922, Outing, “The Cowboy As He Was,” pg. 272, col. 2:
An old-time Westerner, who rode the Range in his day, said of the cowboy that he was “a man with guts and a horse.” Probably no closer description could be given.
27 January 1929, Helena (MT) Daily Independent, “On the Trail of the Rodeo,” magazine section:
Any student of the ranges can tell you, right off, the basic qualifications. Ask any one of them what constitutes a cowboy. He’ll say, “A cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.” That’s the only entrance requirement you’ll have to meet.
Wyoming: a guide to its history, highways, and people
by Writers’ Program of the Works Progress Administration
Oxford University Press
In his own language, the cowboy was a “man with guts and a horse.”