Yakima Canutt – Real Cowboy

10 May

There is no bronc that can’t be rode ….
and there is no cowboy that can’t be throwed
– Cowboy Proverb

Back a ways, Don (https://donostertag.wordpress.com/) (has a hell of a blog) asked about me to do a bit on Yakima Canutt. No problem with that. Yak was one of the greatest Rodeo contestants, Stunt Artists and Stunt Innovators who ever lived – and deserves a large nod. He is profiled on many Western Blogs or Western Websites and I could easily have just re-posted one of his Bios from any of them. Don’t want to do that. So I’ve been feverishly working on coming up with my own compliment to him. Let’s get started

Yakima Canutt
(Nov. 29, 1895 – May 24, 1986)
Born: Colfax, Washington

Yakima Canutt was an American Champion Rodeo competitor, Actor, Stuntman and film action Director.


Yakima Canutt / Cowboy

  • Raised on a Washington ranch, Yak learned to hunt, trap, shoot, and ride – and he’s said to have broke a wild bronco when he was 11.
  • Started competing in rodeos at age 16 – then joined a wild west show at age 17 as a trick rider.
  • Age 16, he won the title of World’s Best Bronco Buster at the Whitman County Fair in Colfax.
  • At 17 he started rodeo riding professionally and gained a reputation as a bronc rider, bulldogger and all-around cowboy.
  • At the 1914 Pendleton Round-Up, Pendleton, Oregon, he got the nickname “Yakima” when a newspaper caption misidentified him.

Pendleton Round Up

  • Winning second place at the 1915 Pendleton Round-Up brought attention from show promoters, who invited him to compete around the country.
  • Won his first World Championship at the Olympics of the West in 1917 and won more Championships in the next few years.

Young Yak with a pipe and hardware … including a gun.


Yakadoodle Dandy


Saddle Bronc Champion / Roosevelt Cup

YAKIMA CANUTT and prizes

More Trophys … nice boots Yak !

  • Between rodeos, he broke horses for the French government in World War I.
  • In 1918, he went to Spokane to enlist in the United States Navy and was stationed in Bremerton, Washington. That fall, was given a 30-day furlough to defend his rodeo title. He was discharged in spring 1919 due to the Armistice.
  • At the 1919 Calgary Stampede, he competed in the bucking event.

Calgary Stampede 1919



  • He traveled to Los Angeles for a rodeo where he met Western Film Star Tom Mix, who had also started in rodeos. Mix invited him to be in two of his pictures. Canutt got his first taste of stunt work in a fight scene on a serial called Lightning Bryce.
  • Left Hollywood to compete in the 1920 rodeo circuit.
  • The Fort Worth rodeo was nicknamed “Yak’s show” after he won the saddle-bronc competition three years in a row from 1921 to 1923.
    He had won the saddle-bronc competition in Pendleton in 1917, 1919, and 1923 and came second in 1915 and 1929.
    Won the steer bulldogging in 1920 and 1921, and won the All-Around Police Gazette Belt in 1917, 1919, 1920 and 1923.
  • Inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame / Rodeo Hall of Fame.

National Cowboy Hall of Fame

  • Pendleton Round Up Hall of Fame.

Pendleton Rodeo Hall of Fame

  • The Pro Rodeo Hall of Champions Hall of Fame.

Pro Rodel Hall of Fame Logo

  • The Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame.

Hollywood Stuntmans Hall of Fame

  • Hollywood Walk of Fame.


  • While in Hollywood in 1923 for an awards ceremony, he was offered eight western action pictures for producer Ben Wilson at Burwillow Studios …
  • 1919—first film appearance as Actor/Stuntman.
  • 1927–35—second unit Director for Mascot studios.
  • 1935–48—head of Republic films stunt unit.
Canutt and Friends

Yakima Canutt, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Frank McCarroll. H.H.Garnett, 1924 Bruce McCarroll Collection of the Bonnie & Frank McCarroll Rodeo Archives


Champs in chaps … but nobody’s smiling?

YAKIMA CANUTT saddle bronc

YAKIMA CANUTT bulldogging

YAKIMA CANUTT saddle bronc 2

BOB BOVEE | Photo Gallery / http://www.boveeheil.com/photo-gallery.htm

YAKIMA CANUTT saddle bronc 3



YAKIMA CANUTT wallpaper 2

Yakima Canutt Actor / Stuntman

4 Responses to “Yakima Canutt – Real Cowboy”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong May 11, 2016 at 12:48 am #

    It’s hard to know how much of John Wayne was him, and how much was Yakima. The Duke learned so much from Yakima Canutt, including his famous walk. Good post!


    • jcalberta May 11, 2016 at 2:26 am #

      Many of the stunts were seamlessly done. People can’t tell. But my investigation reveals that the majority were Yakima. Wayne was no slouch though. Could ride well and handle a rig/coach team. He had played some football so had some athletic ability.


  2. Don Ostertag May 11, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

    Thanks, JC, for the Yakima posts and for your kind words about my blog. The Richard Harris stories I promise are on their way.


    • jcalberta May 11, 2016 at 9:16 pm #

      Ah! Excellent. I still have to finish my own Richard Harris stuff. I have a lot of unfinished projects hanging. Onward !

      Liked by 1 person

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