What an Unbranded Cow Has Cost Artist: Frederic Remington (American, 1861–1909, B.F.A. (Hon.) 1900)


American Paintings and Sculpture

Not on view

Loosely inspired by the "cattle wars" of the 1880s and 1890s, in which wealthy cattle barons gradually displaced independent homesteaders and small-scale ranchers, Frederic Remington's painting depicts the deadly aftermath of a shootout over the ownership of an unbranded cow. The last man standing may be under fire from the attacker at the left. In 1895, an illustration based on the painting accompanied a nostalgic article by Remington’s friend Owen Wister in Harper’s Monthly about the history of cowboys, whom Wister likened to Anglo-Saxon knights. Remington and Wister's glorification of the American cowboy as a symbol of Anglo-Saxon culture was a response to the perceived threat represented by increasing immigration. The artist sought to celebrate the cowpuncher, but the painting’s mournful tone was a reminder that this mythic figure and his frontier world were vanishing.


Oil on canvas


28 1/16 × 35 1/8 in. (71.3 × 89.2 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Thomas M. Evans, B.A. 1931

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.

  • Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 174, 175, 307–8, no. 194, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

landscapes (representations)




Signed lower left "Frederic Remington/ COPYRIGHT, 1895, BY HARPER & BROTHERS."

Technical metadata and APIs


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