Though the 21st-century cowboy may not frequent the brothels, saloons, gambling halls and other dangerous places of Western movie legend, he still must keep a sharp eye out for the many hazards of his unique calling. According to a September 2012 CNN International article on America's most dangerous jobs, farming/ranching was the seventh most dangerous profession in the U.S. There were 260 on-the-job fatalities in 2011, according to the Department of Labor, but the number dropped to 152 in 2012 and 123 in 2013.
Cows, Horses and ATVs
Cowboys work with two of the most unpredictable animals on a ranch -- the horse and the cow. Every year in the U.S. alone, 22 people die from kicking encounters with cows, and horses kill another 20, according to the environmental news website Mother Nature Network. Of course, those 42 people aren’t all cowboys, but it does make one pause: that's far more than the six people killed each year worldwide by sharks. All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, replace horses for many ranching jobs and can be just as fatal, states Montana Stockgrowers Association safety instructor Gene Surber in the CNN article. Ranchers have died from falling off ATVs or being crushed by them while riding them to herd cattle.
Other Sources of Injury
Animals and vehicles are the most dangerous, but a cowboy can be injured in countless ways. He must work in snow, ice and heavy rains, increasing the likelihood of falling and other accidents. Cowboys can get hurt putting up barbed-wire fences or branding cattle. And there's always the usual type of injury -- heavy lifting. As with the many hardships, however, the potential hazards are not enough to stop the true cowboy from a life in the wide-open spaces.