Yellowstone’s 5 Real Cowboys Explained


Taylor Sheridan’s show Yellowstone features plenty of cowboys in its neo-Western setting, but some of its cowboys are more authentic than they seem.

Paramount’s neo-Western show Yellowstone is full of cowboys, but some of the show’s cowboys are even more authentic than they seem. A multi-generational story about the Dutton family, Taylor Sheridan’s hit show Yellowstone tells the story of the Dutton family’s struggle to hold onto their Montana ranch. Full of five seasons’ worth of cutthroat tactics, politics, and bloodshed, patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and his family will do anything to secure the sanctity and legacy of both the Dutton family and the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. Though the Dutton family is brought to life by some big-name actors, Yellowstone’s cast also surprisingly includes some real cowboys.

Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone aims for authenticity in many aspects of its production, from its Montana setting to its stunts. However, the authenticity of Yellowstone doesn’t stop there, with many of the Paramount show’s recurring characters having some significant cowboy and horse riding credentials under their belts. By including real cowboys on Yellowstone, the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch becomes more captivating. Thus far, Yellowstone has featured five real cowboys in the show, including the creator himself.

Taylor Sheridan

Unsurprisingly, actor and Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan is also an actual cowboy in real life. In fact, the creation of Yellowstone is based on Sheridan’s own childhood in Texas, adding some authenticity to the show’s plot. Not only does Sheridan serve as the Paramount series’ creator, but he also plays the recurring role of Travis Wheatley on Yellowstone, a rodeo cowboy and frequent horse trader. One of Travis’ most recent exploits sees him take Jimmy to the 6666 Ranch as a favor to the Dutton family.

Taylor Sheridan has plenty of cowboy credentials to accurately portray Travis Wheatley on Yellowstone. A native of Fort Worth, TX, Sheridan learned how to be a cowboy during childhood when his family bought a ranch in Cranfills Gap when he was eight years old, which he made frequent visits to throughout his childhood. Sheridan’s cowboy background has undoubtedly helped inspire his work in the neo-Western genre, including films Hell Or High Water and Wind River, as well as the Yellowstone franchise. Sheridan is even a part-owner of Yellowstone’s 6666 Ranch in real life, showing the balance of his cowboy background and his film/TV career.

Forrie J. Smith

Another real-life cowboy who has appeared on Yellowstone is actor Forrie J. Smith. Forrie J. Smith has had years of cowboy, horse riding, and rodeo experience before his recurring role as Lloyd in Yellowstone. Growing up riding horses at his grandparents’ ranch in Yellowstone’s setting of Montana, Smith is more than qualified as a cowboy. Smith comes from a long line of rodeo riders, which he eventually joined the ranks of at the age of eight.

After years of riding in rodeos, Smith eventually got into the entertainment industry by doing stunt work and stunt acting, leading to his casting on Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone. Originally working in the entertainment industry as a stunt person, Smith was doing stunt work and wrangling on Taylor Sheridan’s Hell Or High Water when Sheridan offered Smith the part of Lloyd on Yellowstone. Smith has portrayed Lloyd Pierce, one of Yellowstone Dutton Ranch’s oldest ranch hands and one of Yellowstone’s branded men, since Yellowstone season 1.


Jake Ream

Jake Ream has many years of real-life cowboy credentials that prepared him for his role as Jake on Yellowstone. Introduced at the end of Yellowstone season 1, Jake is a ranch hand at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch who has had recurring appearances throughout the rest of Yellowstone’s five seasons. In season 3, Jake received the Yellowstone brand, cementing his ties and commitment to both the Dutton family and the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch.

Before working on Yellowstone, Jake Ream worked professionally with horses, having grown up riding horses and eventually creating his own horse training facility in Utah. Ream first met Taylor Sheridan through a horse he sold him, not realizing who Sheridan was. This was the beginning of Sheridan and Ream’s professional relationship, with Ream occasionally giving lessons to Sheridan and his wife. Initially serving as a mentor and consultant for Yellowstone, Ream helped run a cowboy boot camp for Yellowstone’s cast, earning him his recurring role as Jake.

Ryan Bingham

Yellowstone actor Ryan Bingham is another one of the Paramount series’ cast members to also have been a cowboy in real-life prior to appearing on the show. Bingham began his rodeo career at age 17 and rode on a rodeo team at Tarleton University, although he eventually switched his focus to pursuing music. Taylor Sheridan and Bingham first collaborated on Sheridan’s film Wind River, which led to Bingham’s work on Yellowstone.

Ryan Bingham appears on Yellowstone as Walker, who has been a recurring member of the series since Yellowstone season 1, which is when he received his Yellowstone branding. The role of Walker was specifically written for Bingham when Sheridan found out about his past adventures in the rodeo. A formerly convicted felon, Walker is unique for also aspiring to be a cowboy and a singer outside his work on the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, similar to Bingham himself. In addition to portraying Walker, Bingham also contributes songs to Yellowstone.

Ethan Lee

Rounding out the list of real-life cowboys on Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone is Ethan Lee. Similar to Forrie J. Smith and Jake Ream, Ethan Lee grew up riding horses and originally worked as a rodeo trick rider before transitioning to working in the entertainment industry. Like Ream, Lee also was initially a consultant and mentor for Yellowstone and helped run cowboy boot camps for the Yellowstone actors prior to the show’s filming.

Ethan Lee eventually earned his role of the Duttons’ ranch hand Ethan in Yellowstone season 3 after stepping in as a stunt double. By the end of Yellowstone season 3, Ethan earned his Yellowstone branding, cementing him as an important member of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. Ethan Lee’s work as both a real cowboy and as another ranch hand on Yellowstone further proves that Sheridan understands the importance of authenticity.

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