Steamboat – The Legend and Legacy of the ‘Unrideable’ Bucking Bronco
The iconic bucking bronco and rider adorns Wyoming license plates, University of Wyoming football jerseys, and even the state quarter. Most Wyomingites know the bronc by its name, Steamboat. It is, just like the Cowboy Code, an idea that rouses our state pride.
According to the University of Wyoming, Steamboat was raised on the Foss Ranch near Chugwater. He was so famous he was featured in Sports Illustrated in 1970. He even holds a spot in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Doug Hecox wrote on the University of Wyoming website:
Part tornado, part horse, Steamboat was undeniably one of Wyoming’s wildest residents. The 1,100-pound black bronc with three white stockings was also one of its greatest champions, reigning over the rodeo as a “top bucker” during the height of his career from 1900–08.
The Steamboat is so much a part of the culture there is a legend that the bronc is buried in Frontier Park. If that is true, he will forever be part of the Cheyenne Frontier Days.
The "unrideable" horse got its name after injuring its nose, True West Magazine wrote. When the horse breathed, it whistled and became more pronounced during rodeos. One ranch hand said it sounded like a steamboat, and the name stuck.
The image of a bronc and its rider is not that unique. In fact, several people have claimed their horse was the inspiration for the iconic logo. The origins go back to France in World War I, according to WyoHistory.org. Around 1918, George N. Ostrom brought his beloved steed, Redwing, to Bordeaux. In a contest, Ostrom created an image of his bronc with a rider. It won, and the image was painted on various weapons and vehicles. Although this image is drastically different than what we have today.
Ten years later, the University of Wyoming put a bucking bronc on their athletic jersey. Another decade passes and the Secretary of State decided to use the same image on Wyoming license plates. As WyoHistory.org writes, the origin of the bronc and rider is not without controversy, but the University of Wyoming has gone on record in 1958 that the image was inspired by none other than that whistling horse from Chugwater - Steamboat. Now, who is the rider? That is my grandpa. Why would he lie to me??