The Last Cowboys is Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter John Branch’s epic tale of one American family struggling to hold on to the fading vestiges of the Old West.

Now available in paperback.

"A can't-put-it-down modern Western." — Kirk Siegler, NPR

Longlisted for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing

For generations, the Wrights of southern Utah have raised cattle and world-champion saddle-bronc riders—many call them the most successful rodeo family in history. Now they find themselves fighting to save their land and livelihood as the West is transformed by urbanization, battered by drought, and rearranged by public-land disputes. Could rodeo, of all things, be the answer? Written with great lyricism and filled with vivid scenes of heartache and broken bones, The Last Cowboys is a powerful testament to the grit and integrity that fuel the American Dream.

The Last Cowboys is a beautiful book, threading deep reporting into a gorgeously written narrative. It is American portraiture at its best.” 

—Susan Orlean

“One hell of a ride.”

—Carson Vaughan, Washington Post

“Remarkable.… [The Last Cowboys] has an uncommon ambition: it’s a story not just of rodeo, but of the contemporary West.”

—John Swansburg, New York Times Book Review

“Gripping.… What Branch focuses on so beautifully is how one remarkable American family navigates the situation of wanting to do dangerous, peculiar and deeply impressive kinds of work.”

—Nathan Deuel, Los Angeles Times

The Last Cowboys is informed by scrupulous and compassionate reporting, casting light on a side of the sporting world typically hidden from view.”

—Andrew Graybill, Wall Street Journal

The Last Cowboys is a humble but sweeping portrait of a humble but highly accomplished family.”

—Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

Praise for The Last Cowboys

Saddle-bronc riding is the classic rodeo event, the one depicted in the cowboy silhouette of the Wyoming license plate. It takes balance and rhythm, brains and guts. The cowboy has to stay on the horse for eight seconds to receive a score, and cowboys that ride smoothly usually get rewarded with the best scores. But even staying on doesn’t guarantee earning any money, and the ones left broken in the dirt get nothing.

No family in the world does saddle-bronc as well as the Wrights of Utah. Four of them have been crowned world champion, and there are more Wrights on the way. But rodeo is a young man’s gamble, even for the first family of saddle bronc, and only a few make a working living at it. Every buck of the horse can be the last.

The Wrights know this better than anyone.

YETI Presents: The Wright Boys

An excerpt from The Last Cowboys…

Also by John Branch

“Shows us, in tender detail, a life consumed by our unholy appetites.”—Steve Almond, New York Times Book Review

The tragic death of hockey star Derek Boogaard at twenty-eight was front-page news across the country in 2011 and helped shatter the silence about violence and concussions in professional sports. In this gripping work of narrative nonfiction, Branch tells the shocking story of Boogaard's life and heartbreaking death.


JOHN BRANCH is a reporter for the New York Times. His feature article about an avalanche in Washington state, “Snow Fall,” won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize; he has three times been featured in Best American Sports Writing; and his first book, Boy on Ice, won the PEN/ESPN Prize for Literary Sportswiting. Most recently, Branch wrote the feature-length New York Times story about recovering bodies from Everest, called, "Deliverance From 27,000 Feet." He lives near San Francisco.

Photo by Catherine Branch