What is Cowboy Poetry?

What is cowboy poetry? Only one poetic form merits that distinction. It has three qualities:

a western or cowboy theme,
true line-end rhymes (such as ABAB or ABCB or ABAC), and
consistent meter throughout measured by syllable count (such as 8-6-8-6).

Poems which do not have all three qualities should be called something other than cowboy poetry…perhaps “western poetry” since there is no tradition for poetry by that name.

The cowboy poem, as a truly American literary form, originated in the West as cowboys rode the range in the mid-1800s capturing the rhythm of hooves on the trail. Without paper and pencil (many had no education), they wrote “in their mind” using both meter and rhyme to help them remember their verses. The poetic form is a true folk tradition which should be respected and preserved!