What timeless songs about cowboys and horses should I be listening to? In this article, we are going to list our best 12 captivating songs about cowboys and horses.
These songs honor the cowboy way of life and the special connection between humans and horses, highlighting the rugged charm of the American frontier through a diverse range of musical styles.
Cowboy take me away!
- When we think about cowboy songs, we often associate them with ruggedness and toughness. These songs were written about the cowboy’s experiences and hard work in the American West, but some songs celebrate the cowboy’s love, loss, and lifestyle.
- “Dancing and riding, it’s the same damn thing. It’s about trust and consent,” Nicholas Evans wrote in his best-selling novel The Horse Whisperer. No wonder there are so many country songs about horses!
- Wild West shows, western novels, and stage productions helped to popularize the cowboy!
1. “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the track  has often been juxtaposed with other songs about cowboys and horses in thematic discussions.
While tunes like “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson or “Horse With No Name” by America, delve more directly into the cowboy and horse theme, this track by Jagger and Richards stands out in its nuanced approach.
Originally intended by the guitarist to be a song about missing his newborn son, it was hijacked by the lead singer, who portrayed a ruined relationship with his on-and-off partner, Marianne.
Though it may not explicitly talk about cowboys and horses, wild horses’ imagery is used metaphorically to convey the struggles and complexities of personal connections.
Even after 52 years since its release, the lyrics of this song continue to hold significant meaning for many worldwide.
2. “A Horse with No Name” by America
“A Horse with No Name” is a folk song and a rock classic that whisks listeners away to the vast deserts of the American Southwest.
The songwriter, Dewey Bunnell explained that “A Horse with No Name” was “a metaphor for a vehicle to get away from life’s confusion into a quiet, peaceful place”.
3. “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell
This is one of those songs that has the power to instantly transport you back to the 70s.
Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” is a country gem that tells the story of a cowboy dreaming of stardom.
It reflected the songwriter, Larry Weiss, striving to make it in his songwriting career, and resonated with Campbell about his own singing career.
4. “Back in the Saddle Again” by Gene Autry
Gene Autry’s 1939 western-inspired release became his signature song and was used in his film “Rovin’ Tumbleweeds.”
Its spirited lyrics and catchy tune make it an uplifting anthem for anyone with a love for the cowboy lifestyle.
5. “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash
In 2002, Johnny Cash wrote the powerful song “The Man Comes Around” which references cowboys and horses in its apocalyptic tale.
Both sung and spoken, folky and a bit gospel, Cash’s deep, resonant voice and masterful storytelling make this song a captivating journey into the realms of life and death.
6. “El Paso” by Marty Robbins
When the line of the song starts with “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso/ I fell in love with a Mexican girl,” you know you are in for a good story.
Beautiful lyrics and wording by Marty Robbin paint a vivid picture of Mexico and this song is an example of a tragic love story set in the Wild West.
7. “The Cowboy Rides Away” by George Strait
It is a love song that reflects on the bittersweet farewell of a cowboy leaving behind his life on the open range and a failed relationship.
It is also the song used by Strait to close out all his performances.
8. “Cowboy Take Me Away” by The Chicks
It’s a beautiful song with amazing vocals and real country music.
The background musicians do a great job of leaving space for the violinist and banjo solos, making it a refreshing experience to listen to. Cowboy, take me away!
9. “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi
Capturing the rebellious spirit of cowboys with a rock and roll feel. Jovi’s admiration for Old West heroes is felt throughout this song.
The opening guitar chords and powerful vocals portray the adventurous spirit of modern-day cowboys.
10. “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” by Willie Nelson
Who wouldn’t want cowboys to be their heroes?
Paying homage to the Cowboys who have inspired and shaped his life, Nelson reminisces about his childhood aspiration of becoming a cowboy, a daring hero who only answers to himself.
As an adult, he came to the realization that it’s not a fulfilling way to live.
11. “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big & Rich
A country song that’s not depressing but cheerful and makes you feel good! Even a little cheeky.
With its catchy hooks, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and energetic rhythms, this song never fails to get the crowd on their feet.
12. “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” by Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings
A warning to all the mothers not to let their little boys become cowboys because of the tough and nomadic life of cowboy culture is the heart of this song.
It won Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal during the 1979 Grammy Awards and continues to deliver a cautionary warning to those who seek a cowboy lifestyle.
When was cowboy music popular?
Did you know that the music we often associate with cowboys and the American West became super popular back in the late 1800s and early 1900s?
This was during the time of cattle ranching, the expansion of the American frontier, and the rise of Wild West shows. That’s when this kind of music really hit its stride and got crazy popular.
What do cowboys sing about?
Pretty much anything. Life on the open range was a covered topic. Celebrating freedom, adventure in the American West, hardships, friendships, and love.
Romanticize the beauty of nature, including references to the mountains, rivers, deserts, and the changing seasons. Cowboys often express deep affection for their horses and their indispensable roles in their work.
What is the stereotypical cowboy song?
A typical cowboy song is often pictured as a classic piece of Americana. These songs are full of nostalgia and often tell stories of ranches, horses, and lost love.
Think of singers like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and later, artists like Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash. These timeless songs continue to be beloved by many.
Through these 12 captivating songs about cowboys and horses, you hear great music and go through a history of the influence of country music on current pop culture.
For over 25 years, silent Western movies have been providing entertainment to the American audience, but when sound came in early 1929, there was no stopping the “singing cowboys” from taking over the world and music charts.
1. A quote from The Horse Whisperer [Internet]. www.goodreads.com. [cited 2023 Aug 31]. Available from: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/10615786-dancing-and-riding-it-s-the-same-damn-thing-it-s-about
2. McClure N. Points West Online: The Singing Cowboys: Real to Reel [Internet]. Buffalo Bill Center of the West. 2015 [cited 2023 Aug 31]. Available from: https://centerofthewest.org/2015/11/15/points-west-singing-cowboys-real-to-reel/
3. Beviglia J. What is the Meaning Behind The Song: The Rolling Stones, “Wild Horses” [Internet]. American Songwriter. 2019 [cited 2023 Aug 31]. Available from: https://americansongwriter.com/behind-song-rolling-stones-wild-horses