The American Old West is one of the world’s best known periods, especially made popular by the cowboys. LIFE Magazine has compiled an impressive roster of photographs of the Wild West’s quintessential symbol. Let’s take a look at some of them after the jump!
Talk about the American Old West and there’s one thing that will never go missing: the cowboy. The term may have originally meant, in the literal sense, as a “boy who tends to cows.” But come 1849, the term’s meaning progressed into what it is commonly associated with up to the present: adult cattle handlers during the American West.
Strong, quick, calculated, and sometimes even relentless, cowboys begin their careers young, training as adolescents to obtain the physical ability required by the job. Aside from working as cattle handlers and breeders, they also did mustang-running (catching Mustangs for selling in Mexico), wranglers (handling horses used for working with cattle) , and participated in rodeo activities (something which has remained synonymous to cowboys up to the present).
Since we’re all about Wild West starting today, we’ve scoured the LIFE Images Archive to share with everyone some amazing vintage photographs of the quintessential symbol of the Wild West.