Charles M. Russell (1864–1926)
Bronco Busting, 1895
Transparent watercolor and graphite on paper
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection
This unfortunate cowpuncher is sitting astride a bucking horse known as a “weaver.” Ramon Adams described this type of bucking horse in his 1936 study, Cowboy Lingo: “His feet never struck the ground in a straight line. He had a peculiar weaving motion which was very disconcerting to a man who had not the firmest of seats in the saddle.” In the watercolor the horse’s front hooves strike out to the right and its back pair go off to the left. Striking the ground—usually with bone-jarring force—it will jump up again, this time putting its front hooves to the left and its back hooves to the right, exactly the opposite from the previous time. This bucking action creates a to and fro, or weaving, movement—hence the term “weaver.” Bronc riders did not enjoy this type of horse. On the back of this watercolor, in old script, someone has written “A Bad Hoss” as an alternative title. According to one source, the seven-up brand on the horse was owned by Kid Curry and Jim Thornhill, two of the artist’s friends, who were partners in a ranch in the Little Rockies in the 1880s near Landusky, Montana. John Baumann, writing in 1886 about his range experiences, defined a “broncho” as a wild mustang that had already been handled in captivity. He described the process of breaking these horses as a “trial of strength between man and brute.” Baumann was among a number of writers who viewed the cowboy as a heroic type whose qualities included “an agressive spirit of independence,” “bright intelligence,” “sensitive pride,” “stoic indifference to suffering,” and “sportsmanlike instincts.”