Cowboy Crushes

Why do I write western romances? Even more telling—why do I read western romances? There are many reasons, but the most compelling one is simple. I do it for the cowboys.

Those rugged, hard-working men, so capable, so honorable, so devoted to the women who capture their hearts. I can see the silhouette of a man on horseback, sitting straight in the saddle, and my heart starts fluttering before I even see his face. Crazy, huh? But the image stirs the romantic in me like nothing else. After all, if you’re going to ride off into the sunset with a hunky hero, he needs to have a horse.

It probably started back in my early teen years. I’d outgrown Saturday morning cartoons, so I turned instead to the Saturday westerns. It was the 80’s, the decade that introduced MTV and video games. Westerns were the last thing on anyone’s mind. Well, except for me. I found channels that aired re-runs of wonderful shows like Bonanza, Wagon Train, and The Big Valley. I couldn’t get enough. I started daydreaming my own episodes, writing myself into the script so that I could win the heart of the cowboys I fancied. I had desperate crushes on Adam Cartwright (Pernell Roberts, at left) from Bonanza and Cooper Smith (Robert Fuller, at right) from Wagon Train. I guess I have a thing for dark-haired men in black hats.

That theme continued into the 90’s when the western made a slight comeback in the television world with shows like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Young Riders, and The Magnificent Seven. I’ve been re-watching The Young Riders on Netflix with my 13 year-old daughter. We both agree that Josh Brolin makes a very dreamy Jimmy Hickok. Although I think the beautiful Palomino he rode played a role in the attraction, too. I haven’t introduced her to Eric Close in The Magnificent Seven yet, but he was another cowboy who made my heart pitter-patter.


Then we could talk about those cowboys from down under. Tom Selleck is now a western icon, but I first discovered him in chaps and hat in Quigley Down Under. I had never been that impressed with him when he was driving around Hawaii in a red sports car, but give him a western makeover and stick him atop a horse, and I couldn’t resist. A man that impresses me in any setting is Hugh Jackman. And he made me sigh mightily when he donned western garb for the movie Australia. Hugh proved to me that you’re never too old for a new cowboy crush.                  


And of course, with the release of Cowboys and Aliens, I would be remiss if I failed to mention my latest crush. Daniel Craig makes a fabulous James Bond, but there’s no comparing 007 to Jake Lonergan to my way of thinking. The cowboy’s gonna win every time.

So what about you?

Who are some of your cowboy crushes?

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For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:

28 thoughts on “Cowboy Crushes”

  1. You hit two of my all-time faves right off the bat–Pernell Roberts and Robert Fuller. But let’s not forget the King of the Western, John Wayne. I was also in love with Audie Murphy back when he was doing westerns. Sam Elliott, the greatest voice in the west. Of the Young Riders, the Kid was my favorite, even though I can’t remember his name now. Jeff Osterhage of Sackett fame, cute, cute, cute! I have to say, I never liked Hugh Jackman until I saw him in “Australia.” But the sexiest cowboy (actually, he was a gunfighter) of all was a European actor named Fabio Testi in a little known movie titled “China 9, Liberty 37.” It was a pure camp spaghetti western, but I could have looked at that man ’til the cows came home. ;o)

  2. Fun post, Karen! What would life be without a cowboy to swoon over? Perish the thought. :o)

    I forgot about the YOUNG RIDERS and Eric Close in the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. But good choices.

    Timothy Olyphant is definitely on the crush list. I’m sure I won’t be the only one fawning over Sam Elliot today. The voice alone is worth the price of admission. And I agree Tom Selleck in QUIGLEY, or any other Western can bring out the sun. And Daniel Craig did his spurs and chaps proud. James Drury and Doug McClure from the Virginian were two of my early crushes (although by the time I found the re-runs they were probably older than my dad). The list could go on and on, as quite a few actors have been just so-so until they slap on that Stetson, boots and spurs. ;o)


  3. You got the top ones for me,espically Tom Selleck,an I like Sam Elliot too,another one was my favorite was Bobby Sherman,he played Jeremy Bolt in a tv western in the 70s,I cant remember the name of it,but he had two sexy brothers Joshua an Jason Bolt,,I had my son in the 70s an named him Jeremy,LOL

  4. OK, Devon. I googled Fabio Testi, and you’re definitely right about that one. He made one fine-looking cowboy. 🙂 And John Wayne is certainly the king of the westerns. For some reason, he never really made my heart pitter-patter, but he definitely got my western-loving blood pumping whenever he took to the screen.

  5. Hi, Kristen. I missed out on Timothy Olyphant. I never watched Deadwood, but maybe I need to rectify that error. I looked him up, and he certainly has that cowboy swagger. And I totally agree about Sam Elliot’s voice. I’ve heard him do voice-overs on commercials and I instantly want to buy whatever the product is even though I can’t see him or any other cowboy in sight. The voice alone draws me in and takes me to that romantic cowboy place that makes me sigh.

  6. Hey, Vickie. I think it was “Here Come the Brides”. Even with those awful 70s haircuts, those Bolt brothers still managed to elicit many cowboy crushes. Great call! And I love that you named your son after Jeremy. Too fun!

  7. Fun Post. I had trouble picking out favorites because I LOVE COWBOYS! John Wayne was a favorite and Tom Selleck, oh and Audy Murphy and…..I love cowboys.

  8. Hi Karen, My all time favorite is Lee Horsley as Ethan Allen Cord in “Paradise,” later renamed “Guns of Paradise.” It was on in the late 1980s, and it had the *best* romance with Sigrid Thornton as Amelia Lawson, the lady banker. It was classic–reformed outlaw raising kids, businesswoman struggling in a man’s world.

    Growing up, I watched “High Chapparal”, “Bonanza” and “Lancer.” Loved ’em all!

  9. Connie – I can SO relate! I had an incredibly difficult time narrowing it down to the seven I chose for this post. There’s just something about those rugged men, isn’t there? *Sigh*

  10. Drat. They didn’t have it on Netflix. I pulled up those images on Google though, and yep – Lee Horsely still looks mighty fine. And wasn’t Sigrid Thornton the love interest in “The Man From Snowy River”? That was another great down under cowboy film. I have the soundtrack and see horses running through that sparkling stream in my mind every time I listen to it.

  11. What a fun subject. I was an avid TV cowboy fan as a kid (still am today). A couple I haven’t seen mentioned are Alias Smith and Jones and Laredo. And who didn’t like James Garner in Maverick

  12. Hi, Winnie. I never saw James Garner in his glory days. I only saw him in the Maverick remake movie with Mel Gibson. Mel didn’t look too shabby as a cowboy, either. Although the frilly gambler’s garb is less flutter-worthy to my pulse than the rugged cowhand gear I prefer. 🙂

  13. Sam Elliot is an excellent choice, Stacey. He’s one of those men that doesn’t ever seem to age. He’s looked the same for the last 20 years and that equals – GOOD. One of my favorite on-screen cowboys of all time.

  14. My cowboy hero of all times is JOHN WAYNE. He will always be my hero…
    But some of my other that you have not mentioned here are Little Joe, aka Miahael Landon, Rowdy Yates, from Rawhide, aka Clint Eastwood, and Heath from Big Valley, aka Lee Majors..

  15. Michael Landon and Lorne Greene…those Bonanza boys are *it* for me!!! Also adored Sully on Dr Quinn 🙂

  16. Great cowboys there, Kathleen. All swoon-worthy heroes to be sure. Yes, I had a crush on Lee Majors as Heath Barkley, too. It carried on through the Six Million Dollar Man and Fall Guy, as well. I even loved him as Mountain Dan in a TV Christmas special he did once with Dolly Parton called Smoky Mountain Christmas. It got him close to his cowboy roots. 🙂

  17. Hi, Melissa. That whole Bonanza crew was awesome, wasn’t it? The casting director gets an A+ for that one. And I can’t tell you how many times I daydreamed about putting myself in Dr. Quinn’s place so I could be romanced by Sully. I loved him with that tomahawk.

  18. Oh, Karen, you’re a lady after my own heart. I grew up in the 50’s when TV westerns were the rage and I was in hog-heaven. I used to dream about Robert Fuller and that I was marrying him. My, how that man could walk, talk, and shoot! Back then his main show was called Laramie and his character’s name was Jess Harper. He ran a stage way station with his friend John Smith. Other favorite shows were Cheyenne, High Chapparal, Laredo, and Bonanza just to name a few. Back then there was no shortage of western heroes. Like you I was drawn to the dark-haired cowboy who wore black hats. Too handsome.

    I agree that Daniel Craig makes one of the best cowboys I’ve seen in years! Yummy. And you can’t beat Hugh Jackman.

  19. Hi, Linda. It sounds like I need to hunt me up some Laramie episodes! Robert Fuller was my first serious cowboy crush. I even forgave him when he traded in his boots and gun for a doctor’s coat in Emergency. I sure miss those great old westerns.

  20. My teen years were about 20 years before yours, so Bonanza, Wagon Train and many others were the current shows. I liked all four of the stars on Bonanza, but there was always something special about Adam. Rawhide was a favorite. Many good looking cowboys in that one, including Clint Eastwood. I liked Have Gun Will Travel. Richard Boone isn’t the classic handsome hero, but it was his ethic that appealed. He is kind of in the same category as Sam Elliot and Tom Selleck. They are ruggedly handsome, not pretty boy handsome.

    Rifleman, Cheyenne, and others presented cowboys as men who stood for what was right and lived by the code of the West.
    Too bad there haven’t been many westerns since. The last “crush” was Sully from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

  21. Oh my goodness. I had so many favorite cowboys through the years. I loved Little Joe Cartwright (Bonanza), Heath Barkley (The Big Valley), Sam Elliot and Tom Selleck in every role cowboy or not. 😀 I loved James Drury (The Virginian), Peter Brown (Lawman), Clint Eastwood (Rowdy Yates on Rawhide & everything else), James Garner (Maverick), Chuck Connors (Rifleman)and Bruce Boxleitner as Kenny Rogers sidekick in The Gambler movies. I just read all of the other posts and find I am in agreement with all of you. We have had some great cowboys through the years haven’t we? 🙂 I do want to say that if I would have to choose just one as my favorite of all I have listed I would have to say Sam Elliott…the man has it all. I love his voice that whenever I hear a commercial that he has done the voice over for my ears perk up. I think the man could sell just about anything! Gotta love the cowboys!!!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  22. Karen,
    I had a huge crush on Adam Cartwright, too! I even begged my mom to call me Adam for about a month. LOL One of my all time cowboy crushes was James Stacy on Lancer–very HOT. That show was only on for a couple of seasons, but what memorable seasons they were! SIGH. LOL Chuck Connors was big for me, and of course Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott, and I am soooo with you when it comes to Daniel Craig. He just has it all–and can do anything–James Bond included. I never thought anyone could top Sean Connery, but for me, Daniel sure did. But you are right–I loved him in Cowboys & Aliens, and his voice is always just to die for. Thanks for a fun post and a trip down memory lane!
    Cheryl P.

  23. I have to say that I loved reruns of The Young Riders when I was younger. I had a cowboy crush on Jimmy (Josh Borlin) and Buck (Gregg Rainwater).


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