National Day of the Cowboy: Preserving Pioneer Heritage and Cowboy Culture
“We celebrate the Cowboy as a symbol of the grand history of the American West.
The Cowboy’s love of the land and love of the country are examples for all Americans”
President George W. Bush
The thirteenth annual National Day of the Cowboy is July 22, 2017.
The American cowboy has firmly taken his place in American history. He is an almost mythological character of the American west; often a lone rider embracing a simple life, loving and living off the land with hard work and nobility. The cowboy culture is firmly embedded in the character of many western states; the cowboy hat and boots are more than just a style.
Ancestors of the cowboy date back to colonial times. In the 1500’s the Spaniards had established a cattle industry and began driving cattle north from central Mexico in search of abundant grazing. By 1690 cattle were as far north as Texas where they were left to roam freely on the open plains. Cattle were driven from Tennessee to Virginia in the 1790’s and much of branding protocol was established in early Florida. Cattle were driven to supply Confederate soldiers and California gold miners.
Our current conception of the American cowboy had its beginnings in Texas after the Civil War with the great cattle drives. The national appetite for beef dramatically increased. Cattle worth only $4.00 a head in Texas were worth $40 a head in Missouri. One just needed to get their cattle to the railheads and shipped to the expanding markets. The era of the great American cattle drive lasted only about twenty years, but the impact on our economy, history and culture was forever.
With such a place of importance in the heart and history of America, the National Day of the Cowboy, (NDOC), would seem to be a natural occurrence. Indeed, the fourth Saturday in July is annually observed as the National Day of the Cowboy. Many rodeos, pioneer days, museums and other organizations celebrate this day. The NDOC flag flies in thirty four states. However, only twelve states have permanently passed the NDOC into law with Indiana being the most recent in February 2017.
The NDOC is a grassroots organization of all volunteers that began in 2005. They are striving to secure permanent status in all fifty states for the fourth Saturday in July as the National Day of the Cowboy. This will be accomplished through the passage of state bills. The state of North Dakota is one of thirty eight states that have not yet passed a bill to permanently recognize the National Day of the Cowboy.
The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame hopes to rectify this in the near future and is actively working toward North Dakota officially recognizing this day. Each year the NDCHF recognizes and celebrates the National Day of the Cowboy. This year the celebration will be geared to the kids – our future cowboys and cowgirls – with a variety of fun and educational events. Ride with us and celebrate this year at the NDCHF in Medora.
By: Mary Patricia Martell Jones
Published in: The Cowboy Chronicle
The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame
Spring 2017 Edition
Executive and Publisher
National Day of the Cowboy 501(c)3
Martell family photo archives