Why Is Wyoming Called the Cowboy State?

Esther Ejim

The state of Wyoming has several nicknames, one of which is “The Cowboy State.” The state earned this name due to the many ranches in its borders. Another reason behind the nickname is the adoption of the image of a cowboy perched on a bucking horse as the state symbol. The history behind the proliferation of cattle and, consequently, cowboys is an interesting one. The early emigrants and settlers in the states of Oregon, Utah and California often traveled with all of their possessions and livestock with which they hoped to make a new life for themselves in the new states.

Wyoming is often referred to as "The Cowboy State" due to the many ranches in its borders.
Wyoming is often referred to as "The Cowboy State" due to the many ranches in its borders.

Not only were the herds of animals intended to help them start a new herd once they reached their destination and settled down, they also provided milk to the weary travelers. The route they had to travel took them past what would someday become the state of Wyoming, "The Cowboy State." These travelers often had a tight schedule, which meant they had to reach where they were going before winter set in and the snows came. The cattle and sheep slowed them down and soon had to be left behind as the emigrants increased their pace. The assumption was that the cattle and sheep would not make it past the harsh winter, which proved to be false since the animals not only lived but thrived and soon grew abundant in the whole area.

Cattle play a major role in the history of Wyoming.
Cattle play a major role in the history of Wyoming.

It turned out that the grasses growing on the high planes were ideal for the grazing animals, while the sagebrush range was suitable for the sheep. This led settlers to the area, which eventually became known as Wyoming. Numerous ranches sprang up all across the state and attracted their fair share of the cowboys who worked on the ranches herding sheep and cattle. This association of cowboys managing herds on ranches and the history of the state with cattle and sheep established a relationship with the nickname “The Cowboy State.”

Aside from "The Cowboy State," Wyoming is also known as “The Equality State.” This particular nickname stems from the fact that the state of Wyoming was the very first state among the United States to grant women the right to vote. This happened in 1869 and led to the endowment of the nickname “The Suffrage State,” which was eventually changed to “The Equality State.” The term “Equality” was also adopted by the state as its state motto.

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Discussion Comments


With all the large ranches that started in Wyoming, it's no wonder it is called the cowboy state.

Once word got out that folks were starting ranches in Wyoming, the cowboys flocked to the area. With the herds of cattle and sheep growing larger as the years went on, more and more cowboys were needed for all the chores needed to take care of the animals.

The area became a cowboy culture. There were rodeos, a certain way of talking and dressing, and a cowboy "attitude." This culture is still evident today.


Wyoming is a big state in land area, but its population is well below a million residents. While visiting there, I remember Jackson Hole and the beautiful Teton Mountains. I also remember the huge ranches that went on forever.

Wyoming has always had a small population. I wonder why more of the early ranchers and other pioneers didn't stop here to settle. And later, when ranch land was becoming hard to find, why didn't settlers come here to live?


@speechie - You might have hit the nail on its head by asking how many people are living in Wyoming - the total population for Wyoming is in the mid 500,000 range.

The biggest city in Wyoming the last I checked was Cheyenne and it has only 60,000 people in it!

In fact Wyoming is by population the smallest state, and even has a smaller population than the District of Columbia!

I don't know about you but that makes me want to pay closer attention to Ms. Wyoming contestants for the Ms. America contest - I wonder how many people they actually had to beat out for the Ms. Wyoming title.

So maybe when you have that few people that spread out, it makes for a little less newsworthy happenings?


Way to go Wyoming for being the first state to give the women the right to vote!

Wyoming is an interesting state to me because they seem to stay out of things. They aren't advertising all the time for tourism. They don't seem to make the news that much...

How many people are actually in the state of Wyoming?

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