It’s easy to become enamored with the cowboy era. Post-1865, following the American Civil War, the west became a romanticized frontier, home to outlaws, bootleggers, opportunists, and of course, cowboys, long drive cattle rangers who were known for their guts and grit. The unique names that come from the cowboy period make great baby names that hearken back to this remarkable era.
The long drive cattle rangers trace their roots to the Mexican Vaquero tradition, but the cowboy legacy is so much more than that. There were the
Black cowboys, emancipated enslaved people who found new opportunities out on the range. “Right after the Civil War, being a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to men of color who wanted to not serve as elevator operators or delivery boys or other similar occupations,” says William Loren Katz, a scholar of African-American history in Smithsonian magazine. There were also cowgirls, Annie Oakley most famous among them. These tough women rode side-by-side rough riders and helped change the landscape of the West forever.
It wasn’t a perfect world. Life as a cowboy was hard, it required enormous strength and by most accounts, an
indomitable stubborn spirit. But some of the attributes of the long-gone cowboys might inspire you today, which is why these names are worth considering for your baby. 1 Bill Cherry Kim/Photodisc/Getty Images
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was an entertainer who created the mythology of the west and makes a great case for a fantastic baby name. The sharpshooter who became famous for hunting buffalo for the Kansas Pacific Railroad work crews, was the poster boy for frontier culture and, fun fact, “Cody was an early
advocate of women’s suffrage and the fair treatment of American Indians” according to Center of the West. 2 Jesse
Don’t get it twisted, by definition
Jesse James was a criminal. He was the leader of the James–Younger Gang, a group of bank and stagecoach robbing terrorists. But if you prefer revisionist history a la Brad Pitt’s performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, he was a legend. Certainly baby name material. 3 Wyatt
Heard the names Dodge City, Deadwood and Tombstone? Then you likely already know all about cowboy Wyatt Earp. He’s considered the hero of the O.K. Corral, the famous fight where the lawman and others took on a team of outlaws called the cowboys.
A modern day cowboy, Ty Murray is a nine-time World Champion professional rodeo cowboy. How’s that for a modern day hero of a name?
5 Annie tekinturkdogan/E+/Getty Images
You know the name, you know the legend, Annie Oakley was the definition of girl power before the term had been coined. A sharpshooter, she gained fame after becoming a star of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show. Want your girl to have that same spirit? Name her Annie.
Part of what makes the cowboy era endure is the music of the time and we can thank Harry McClintock for that. His tunes including “Old Paint,” “The Old Chisolm,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain” are beloved today. If you want your child to have an old timey appreciation for good tunes, name them Harry.
A Black cowboy and former enslaved person, Bose Ikard is considered a pioneer of the Goodnight–Loving Trail, a trail that moved Texas longhorns from just above San Antonio to Wyoming. Talk about a great story for your little baby Bose to tell for the rest of their life.
One of the most famous Black heroes of the old West, Nat Love cut a striking figure with his flowing hair under his wide cowboy hat. He was known as an expert shot, cattle wrangler, and rodeo winner. Nat makes a great modern name today and hearkens back to the true spirit of the cowboy age.
Another modern day Canadian cowboy, Reg Kesler came to fame for his skill in saddle bronc riding and bareback riding and is a Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee. If you have Canadian cowboy roots, Reg makes a great baby name.
Does being a cowboy movie star count? It does if you’re Slim Whitaker. The man starred in dozens of cowboy films. Pour your appreciation for old timey movies into your child by choosing the name slim for your baby.
The Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon is a big time rodeo, so you can imagine what it felt like in 1916 for Kitty Canutt to be named
All-Around Champion Cowgirl for her bucking horse skills. Baby girls could use a role model like Kitty. Taking her name is one way to let her legacy live on. 12 Theodore
Let’s not forget our 26th President. Hard to believe the New York City born Theodore Roosevelt would one day become a cowboy, but it’s true. He earned the moniker from his frontier adventures hunting in the Dakota Territory. If you have bold political aspirations for your baby, give him the name Teddy in T.R.’s honor.
13 Montie FOTOGRAFIA INC./E+/Getty Images
Want a cool cowboy baby name for your kid? You could do worse than Montie Montana. This trick rider and stunt man also made a name for himself playing in many John Wayne films.
Doc Scurlock was a gunslinger who rode with Billy the Kid. He was also a founder of the Regulators gang that got into all kinds of trouble, which may or may not be a reason to name your child after him.
A true blue cowgirl, Belle Starr was associated with Jesse James’ gang and was a noted horse thief. You can name your baby Belle and focus on the horse riding skills and less on the thieving.
The Wild West wasn’t just a cowboy haven, it was a hotbed of go-getters looking to win their fortunes and that’s what Lottie Deno was up to. The famous cowgirl gambler was once told she should change her name to Lottie Dinero because no one else could win a hand against her, which will be a great story for your daughter tell every time she introduces herself.
The Canadian outlaw Pearl Hart is said to have scored one of the last great stagecoach robberies of the era which launched a media frenzy thanks to her gender. She went to prison. Then after being pardoned went on to work under an alias in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Proof that the name Pearl isn’t just for innocent little darlins’.
A vaudeville cowboy, Will Rogers wowed audiences with horse and rope tricks and worked in a variety of wild west acts. His homespun humor is beloved to this day, and a great reason to name your baby after him.
Lillian Smith was a cowgirl trick shooter who gained billing in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show as “the champion California huntress." How’s that for a moniker a girl can be proud of?
Rose Dunn became a dime novel star thanks to a life running with outlaws. While she’s been mythologized for hanging with rough and tumble men, she was ultimately known as a great horse woman of her time, and that’s a certainly something any Rose might aspire to.
Born into slavery, according to History.net, Stagecoach Mary Fields would go on to become a
sharpshooter mail carrier who protected letters throughout the West with her tough as nails attitude and her dueling rifle and revolver. The first Black woman to carry the mail, she’s remembered for her fearlessness and charisma something any parent would want to instill in their child.
So pony up to this list and rope your favorite name for a title that would make the cowboys of yore proud.