Cowboys: An American Symbol

Cowboys remain the most enduring image of the 19th century American West. According to legend, cowboys could lasso a steer with one hand while simultaneously rescuing a damsel in distress with the other. Contemporary sources describe cowboys as creatures distinct from regular human beings, as men who ranked above those in urban areas because of the cowboys’ abilities to handle the elements and the cattle and look good doing it. Journalists commonly describe the characteristics of the men who worked long hours for low pay herding, branding and driving cattle north. Their writings likely contribute to the cowboy being considered a mythological creature and part of the creation story of the United States.

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