Here's What a Cowboy Name Looks Like Today
When you think "cowboy," perhaps the names that come to mind are Wild West legends like Wild Bill Hickock, Kit Carson and Doc Holliday. Or maybe they're Hollywood cowboys like Hoss Cartwright, Bart Maverick and Rooster Cogburn. Today's new cowboy names give a nod to those traditions, but with a new spin. They're both more adventurous, and more formal. So long, Bill and Hoss; hello Ryker and Weston.
I identified that new cowboy style based on a statistical tally of the boys' names that are currently most distinctive to America's cowboy country. My target was names that are especially popular in states like Wyoming, Oklahoma and their neighbors, and not elsewhere. That means eliminating names like Oliver that are popular in Northern Plains cowboy territory, but also in other Northern states like Vermont and Wisconsin. It also rules out country music names like Bentley and Easton that are popular across a swath of the South along with Oklahoma and Kansas. The result is pure distilled contemporary cowboy style.
While old-time cowboy names were heavy on nicknames, the new cowboy sound is dominated by surnames and action. The hottest surnames typically have some connection to America's Western mythos, from cowboy hats (Stetson) to rifles (Remington) to Western movie stars (Cooper) to the land itself (Ridge). Action is represented by the "doer" suffix -er, or by energized spellings like a double-t ending or the letter x.
Take a look for yourself:
To get at the heart of this style, consider the names Colter, Bridger and Stryker. All three are doer-styled surnames. All are built around a common one-syllable word with an action edge: colt, bridge, strike. And all three have Western connections and rugged connotations.
John Colter was a pioneering explorer of the Mountain West region, where places like Colter Bay and Colter Peak are named after him. Legendary mountain man Jim Bridger is memorialized in many place names including the Bridger Mountains in Montana and Wyoming. Stryker is a U.S. Army fighting vehicle named after two Medal of Honor winners—and the name of movie soldier Sgt. John M. Stryker, played by Western legend John Wayne.
Together the three names paint a clear picture. They're turbocharged surnames that honor the dauntless spirit of men who were themselves called John and Jim. That's your modern buckaroo.