From women-run cattle ranches to outdoor enthusiasts who adore pulverizing black diamonds, it can be hard to think outside the box when it comes to the stereotypes that define Wyomingites. Many opt for working boots over Nikes and are just as happy ice fishing in January as they are fly fishing in July. Cowboy hats are de rigueur for every sport, from team penning to snowboarding. You may already know about some of the things that Wyomingites do that are hard to believe, but some may surprise you!

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1. Champion Women’s Rights

Does it seem like an oxymoron that a male-oriented cowboy culture in a state like Wyoming would be a staunch supporter of women’s rights? Decades before the 19th Amendment, Wyoming women gained the right to vote and own property. It may be hard to believe, but in 1869, women were allowed to vote and hold public office in the Cowboy State.

In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to grant suffrage to women and made women’s rights a condition of statehood.
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2. Have an Artistic Streak

Stereotypes about cowboys conjure up rugged mustachioed surly types who wear their spurs out to dinner. It may be hard to believe that people who thrive on Old West culture also love art and creative pastimes. Not so. Ever since the town of Cody was founded by the Wild West show entertainer, Buffalo Bill, Cody, Wyoming has been an artsy place. No doubt all that natural beauty inspires artists, and on an icy winter day, you may even see a Wyomingite setting up their easel by the side of the road to capture Mount Owen on canvas. Wyomingites love art fairs and festivals such as the Art Fair Jackson Hole and Casper Nic Fest. It may be hard to believe, but did you know that Jackson Pollock, a world-famous Abstract Expressionist, was born in Cody, WY?

Cody, a town of 10,000 residents, sits just 50 miles east of the entrance to Yellowstone and boasts one of the world’s best collections of western art at the Whitney Western Art Museum.

3. Love (Classical) Music

They love music of all kinds. You may expect that in the Cowboy State, music centers around the classic cowboy ode to the West, sung around campfires after a day of gathering cattle or hiking in Yellowstone. Roy Rogers sang Why, Oh Why, Did I Ever Leave Wyoming and John Denver crooned Song of Wyoming but the Cowboy State honors classical music too. The Grand Teton Music Festival, Cheyenne Symphony, Laramie’s Wyoming Summer Music Festival, and Casper Civic Symphony highlight classical and chamber music. It may be hard to believe, but from border to border all over the state, classical music is also part of Wyoming culture.

The Cheyenne Youth Symphony puts a Western spin on classical music. Photo credit Jani on Flickr.

4. Rub Elbows with Moguls and Megastars

For the same reasons Wyomingites love their state, celebrities, dignitaries, and other big wheel types have established either first or second homes in Wyoming. Jackson Hole is an especially popular spot for big-name heavyweights. So if a fourth-generation Wyomingite heads over to Cutty’s Bar and Grill after work, it’s likely they may sit down at a table next to Bill Gates or Matthew McConaughey. It may be hard to believe, but Jackson’s local airport can get so crowded with private jets that they end up having to park them in a nearby field.

Jackson Hole has become a magnet for celebrities looking for adventure. You might spot the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, or Kanye West strolling through town.

5. Work in Mining & Oil Production

Since cattle are Wyoming’s top agricultural product it’s easy to see why ranching is so important to the economy. But mining (Wyoming is the top coal-producing state in the country) and tourism are also major aspects of the economy. Although it’s known as the Cowboy State, you may find it hard to believe that many Wyomingites work in the oil, coal, uranium, and natural gas industries. 

Wyoming’s top agricultural products include cattle, hay, and hogs. In addition to farming, the state’s economy also relies heavily on mining and tourism.

6. Revere Cowboy Culture

If you weren’t raised on a farm or ranch, the social conventions and traditions in the Cowboy State may seem a bit foreign to you. This conservative state reveres many of the values of the Old West through events and festivals centered around the American Frontier. But these events aren’t just something to watch, they’re a critical aspect of life for many Wyomingites who have ranched and farmed for generations. It may be hard to believe, but on a daily basis, many Wyomingites are out repairing fences, gathering cattle on vast wind-swept ranges, separating calves from cows, roping and branding calves, and training their horses to help them with all those ranching chores. 

Laramie celebrates Jubilee Days, Star Valley puts on Alpine Mountain Days, and Jackson honors Old West Days in July. Cheyenne has commemorated Frontier Days each and every year ever since 1897. People come from all over the planet to see the world’s biggest rodeo. It’s hard to believe, but top Frontier Days cowboys can win up to $1,000,000 in prize money. 

For more than a century, Cheyenne Frontier Days has celebrated Wyoming’s cowboy culture with events ranging from steer wrestling to saddle bronc riding.

7. Live Independently

Most Wyomingites know how to take care of themselves, even when the snow is piled up six feet high and they need to get to work. Keeping vital items in their vehicles like sleeping bags, jumper cables, flares, snacks, water, a flashlight, snow shovel, and hand warmers is the difference between life and death in Wyoming. Just about every in-the-know Wyomingite keeps essential emergency gear in their vehicle. It may be hard to believe, but relying on a road service to get out of a pinch isn’t their bag.

Wyoming has brutal winters. Many areas of the state experience between 45-65 inches of annual snowfall with temperatures that frequently dip into the single digits, making emergency gear essential.

8. Create and Consume Fine Literature

If you think Wyoming is just farmers, cowboys, and cowgirls who toil from sunup to sundown, you’re wrong. Those same Wyomingites value the written word and have created some fine literature. Chip Rawlins, who publishes under the name C. L. Rawlins, is a poet, non-fiction writer, teacher, and experienced outdoor guide. Owen Wister was a novelist who wrote about heroic cowboys of the American West. Author of Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx, plus Geoffrey O’Gara, and Gretel Ehrlich have lived in Wyoming. It may be hard to believe, but every county in the state of Wyoming has at least one library.

The former Uinta County Library, in Evanston, Wyoming. Built in 1906, this library was one of 16 Carnegie libraries in Wyoming constructed with money awarded by the Carnegie Corporation. Ntsimp, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

9. Ski, Skate, Snowboard, Sail, and . . .

Hike, rock climb, canoe, kayak, raft, fish, camp, hunt, golf, horseback ride – Wyoming is so full of extraordinary natural environments for all kinds of year-round activities, it makes sense that Wyomingites are avid sports lovers. Whether skiing or rafting, they often don a cowboy hat while enjoying their favorite pastime. It may be hard to believe they don’t lose their hat while shredding black diamonds or shooting rapids, but the stampede strap holds it on tight.

From hiking the glorious Grand Tetons during the summer months to shooting down powdery ski runs during the blustery winters, Wyoming offers a wealth of outdoor recreation year-round.

10. Merge the Old West with the Modern

You may not believe that a population who reveres the Old West can be so savvy about contemporary ways – but Wyomingites are. They’ve cleverly merged the culture and traditions of the Old West with a vibrant tourist industry that brings in big bucks year-round. Many working ranches have opened guest facilities so city slickers can climb aboard a horse, gather some cows, then sit around a raging campfire while the hosts recite poetry and tell tall tales. Other ranches open up their rivers to city folk who come for a week of world-class fly fishing. From sustainably-operated working ranches to luxury spa ranch experiences, it might be hard to believe, but you’ll never want to leave once you’ve spent a few days on a Wyoming ranch.

Schwabacher Landing, in Grand Teton National Park, is a popular launching point for guided fishing trips along the Snake River.

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It’s not hard to believe that Wyoming offers an incredible way of life. If you’d like to be part of the Wyoming lifestyle, it’s a good idea to learn more about what to expect before you pack up and move. Our comprehensive Moving to Wyoming Relocation Guide explains everything you’ll need to know about living in Wyoming, from the cost of living and housing to the economy and educational opportunities. It even outlines the steps you’ll take to get your Wyoming driver’s license. Give it a look – it’s a worthwhile read. Then, when you’ve made the decision that the Equality State is for you, check out our unbiased list of trusted, top-rated Wyoming movers. You’ll get an idea of the various services they offer – from storage to full-service moves. Click on both links for more information and free moving quotes!

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Patricia McBratney

Between working as a clinical educational therapist and flipping houses, Patty’s lifelong love of horses found her riding the remote... Read More