The Wild West was not as 'wild' as we assumed

Fareeha Arshad

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It’s strange how fiction has romanticized reality. It’s everywhere. We often get so engrossed in fiction that it becomes a new reality for us: a reality entirely different from the truth. As a result, we tend to believe that what we have in our heads is correct while everything else is not.

Take the ‘Wild West, for instance. We have this broad notion about the cowboys being macho, lawless, and always on horses with guns. However, we often miss out on other minor details about them and their lifestyle.

For starters, carrying a gun was outlawed once they formed a local government. This law enforcement was strictly monitored. Having an illegal weapon was one of the most common reasons behind the arrests in the Wild West world. If anything, there are more relaxed laws regarding carrying firearms in the modern-day Tombstone than it was back then in Old West.

The cowboys were less inclined towards violence. They didn’t simply shoot each other off to settle disputes. They were very civil about it. Instead of killing their opponent, they’d find common ground and find a way to benefit each other mutually. They hardly ever stole or robbed a place, let alone a bank. Also, the Old West had meagre homicide rates. The maximum number of murders the Tombstone experienced was five. While between 1870 to 1885, the homicide rate was recorded to be merely 0.6 deaths a year!

So, when you think of it, their ‘violence’ or lawlessness is only on screens. They were not as ‘wild’ as we believe them to be.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State
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