The Western Code of Honor

Clarice Mayfield

Today I have a very special article, just for you! The honor code of the Wild West…Oh my!

I’m sure you know, darling, that especially during the Western Era there were many, really many unwritten laws. What you may not know until now, though, is that if those rules were broken, there would be some kind of punishment! It could be acquiring a bad reputation, lack of respect, tarring and feathering…And of course a fight. Because after all, it’s the Old West!

How Did It Start?

I’m talking about the “no written” code. Cowboys had a hard life, but their code was all about justice, loyalty, respect, hospitality and protection of their lands.

The lack of any written laws during the Frontier Era was a huge problem. Especially when newcomers and settlers were coming, searching for a better life, a business opportunity and probably a piece of land. I think you can imagine what chaos this lack of laws caused.

And that’s how unwritten and unbreakable rules started in what we call today the Code of the West!

So What Exactly Was the Code of the West?

This Code had to do with people’s moral aspect. This unwritten code was in fact rules of behavior. Ethics. The code was unbreakable and it didn’t matter  that they were never written. They weren’t official laws, but I can assure you that a man of that era would never dare to break any of them. Basically it was the agreement of a man of the West to obey certain behavior rules.

Which Were Those Rules?

Below, I will present you some of the rules of this “no written” code. I will be happy to receive your comments about these! Pick one (or more, dear, it will be my pleasure) and leave a comment  after the article! 😉

So let’s get started!

  1. Never steal a man’s horse.

    And wait for it…perhaps the punishment for horse thieves was death! Horses were very important to people during the western era. They were something like sacred. That’s why the horseshoe was considered good luck…it was the cowboy’s lucky charm!

  2. Do not use someone’s past to judge him. What really matters is his present.

    That was a really good one! Unfortunately, I’m not so sure whether this rule was followed or not…but that’s my personal opinion.

  3. At the dining table, guns are forbidden.

    Well, it does make sense! I honestly wouldn’t be very happy to have dinner with my husband…and his rifle! We all need a peaceful moment when eating properly!

  4. When a man wants to greet another one, but he is coming from behind, he should make a loud noise before he approaches.

    Of course. Or else he would probably be shot. Old West, my dear! Old West!

  5. When someone rides another’s horse without his permission, it is like stealing his wife.

    As you understand, no one could touch another man’s horse. What did I tell you about horses during the Western Era? Yes, you got it!

  6. When drinking whiskey, a man should fill the glass to the brim.

    Got it. Cowboys were tough and they also drank tough.

  7. Among friends, a cowman should hold his glass and drink his whiskey with the same hand he uses his gun.

    This way, they were able to show their friendly intentions. And avoid many fights, misunderstandings and shootings, as well.

  8. A man should never wear another’s hat. Not even try to do it.

    Rules are rules.

  9. When someone needs help or is wandering around, a true cowboy should open his house and invite him to dinner.

    Hospitality, my dear!

  10. Even enemies deserve a proper fighting chance.

    That would mean justice. Place, time, no cheating. It’s a date.

  11. A cowboy should be loyal to his friends, family and people with whom he rides.

    Yup. Loyalty!

  12. It is not allowed for a man to shoot a woman was not allowed.

    No comments. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one!

  13. To shoot an unarmed or and unwarned enemy is not allowed.

    That makes sense. Otherwise, it would be cheating. And cheating was considered really bad and wrong during the time.

  14. A man should always respect and protect his land.

    He should treat his land and home with respect. That would mean no fires, no rock or tree disfiguring, no destruction of nature or the landscape. If you treated your land with disrespect, you were not a real cowboy.

  15. Honesty.

    Their handshakes were their contracts. Men of honor. Their words were their bonds.

That’s It For Now, Dear!

As I said before, if a man broke these rules, there would be punishment. According to his fellas, “he wasn’t a man”. Since the rules weren’t “official” or “written”there wasn’t certain punishment. But, the man who broke them would obtain a really bad reputation. He would become a social outcast, without any sign of honor. I think it was fair enough. Except this rule about the whiskey! 😉

It seems that our beloved Wild West, despite the difficulties and the harsh way of life, had a more…sensitive side. I feel the moral code proves it.

Those men based their behavior on love, respect, loyalty and honor. It is remarkable, don’t you think?

Hope you enjoyed my article and learned something new today! Have an amazing day! Thank you for staying with me until the very end!

I look forward to your comments, or e-mails! You know where to find me! Until then, farewell!


Written by Clarice Mayfield

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