The Cowboy Code of the West

Posted by John Brand on

First chronicled by the famous western writer, Zane Grey, in his 1934 novel The Code of the West, no "written" code ever actually existed. However, the hardy pioneers who lived in the west were bound by these unwritten rules that centered on hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.

If it's not yours, don't take it.
If it's not true, don't say it.
If it's not right, don't do it.
Cowboy's word is his sacred bond
Bargains sealed with handshake are more binding than legal documents
be loyal
Demand square dealings
Be proud of your occupation
Lay down your life, if necessary, for the privilege of defending your outfit
Grant quick assistance to friends and strangers in need
Never tolerate cowards
Be cheerful
Endure hardships without complaining
Don't make excuses
Try to be better than the other fella
Never quit
Share anything you own with a fellow worker
Be generous with your life and money
Treat women like ladies
Never shoot an un-armed or un-warned man
Stealing and rustling are evil wrong doing


From the Texas Livestock Journal 10/21/1882- wrote of the cowboy's courage, chivalry and loyalty:

"We deem it hardly necessary to say in the next place that the cowboy is a fearless animal. A man waiting in courage would be as much out of place in a cow camp as a fish would be on dry land. Indeed the life he is daily compelled to lead calls for the existence of the highest degree of cool calculating courage. As a natural consequence of this courage, he is not quarrelsome or a bully.



As another necessary consequence to possessing true manly courage, the cowboy is as chivalrous as the famed knights of old. Rough he may be, and it may be that he is not a master in ball room etiquette, but no set of men have loftier reverence for women and no set of men would risk more in the defense of their person or their honor.


Another and most notable of his characteristics is his entire devotion to the interests of his employer. We are certain no more faithful employee ever breathed than he, and when we assert that he is par excellence, a model in this respect, we know that we will be sustained by every man who has had experience in this matter."
(excerpts from the book "Cowboys of the America's" by Richard W Slarta)



The Cowboys of the Old West Lived by these simple rules. Think about how our world would be if all live by these simple Cowboy ethics.
A challenge for all Buckaroos and Cowboys today- take just one rule and live by it. Let us know your experiences, or comment on how you already live by the Cowboy Code of the West!!!!



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