• Matlock Rose on Jesse James, 1951

  • 76 Jumping Horse Ranch, Montana

  • Casey Tibbs, Colorado Springs, 1949

  • Four Sixes Ranch, Texas

  • Gene Rambo, Monte Vista, 1949

  • GRA Finals, Corpus Christi, 1949

  • Harley May, Carlsbad, 1948

  • Judge Junior, 1965

  • Mister Bar None, 1959

  • Poco Bueno, 1958

  • Jimmie Randals on Poco Dell, 1960

  • Tad Lucas, Fort Worth, 1948

  • Santa Rosa Roundup, 1951

  • Jim Shoulders, Colorado Springs, 1949

  • Toots Mansfield, Santa Rosa, 1952

James Cathey (1917 - 1978)

The great photographer, James Cathey, gave America over 68,000 priceless historic photo images of our shared western heritage.

Spanning a career from 1947 through the mid-1970s, these images record the best of American rodeos, western horse sports, and the uniquely American working horse breed, the American Quarter Horse.

The James Cathey Heritage Collection, consisting of more than 68,000 photographic negatives, shot during the thirty-year career of the late James Cathey, is a unique piece of America's heritage.

It is the most significant photography collection of its era to focus on the American sport of rodeo, the American cowboy at work, the American Quarter Horse, and the western way of life.

Cathey, as he was known to his friends, was the "official" photographer of many events, including the Santa Rosa Roundup, the Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show (better known as the Fort Worth Stock Show), the Texas State Fair, the Wyoming State Fair, the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo, and the Laramie Steer Roping, among many others.

When Cathey worked a rodeo, he tried to shoot every contestant in every go-round of every event, compiling an amazing record of the American rodeo sport and its participants during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

At livestock shows, Cathey created the same historical record of championship animals and their owners, recording the foundations and now-ancestral lines of some of America's most significant current breeds of livestock.

As a direct result of his work at horse shows and stock shows, Cathey began to specialize in photographing the champions of the working cowhorse breed known as the American Quarter Horse. For years, he traveled all across the western United States, photographing quarter horses at home on their ranches, competing in cow cutting contests and winning halter and conformation classes at horse shows.

Cathey's real specialty became the portraiture of AQHA champions and bloodline sires. He shot the long-gone greats like Poco Bueno, Poco Lena, Go Man Go, Cutter Bill, and hundreds more.

While Cathey was traveling the West and making quarter horse portraits he simply had no peer. No other professional photographer attempted his specialty. Every owner of an AQHA champion wanted a Cathey portrait of the horse, especially if that horse was put up for stud, and Cathey worked hard to see to it that most got their wish.

Since his travels led him to the most significant ranches and through the most beautiful scenery of the American West, Cathey shot these too. Here are the real cowboys and their working horses. Here are yearlings being individually roped and wrestled to the ground by hand. Here is the fence rider streatching wire with the help of his horse and a saddle horn.

Throughout his career, Cathey believed he was recording America's heritage for the future, and he managed his collection with the thoroughness and attention to detail of a historical librarian. Each of the many thousands of frames he shot was numbered, dated and cataloged, and most of the people and named animals in the pictures were identified by cross-reference files. The collection is a monumental work, the life's work of an artist and a dedicated photojournalist.

An old rodeo announcer used to say, "There ain't a bronc that can't be rode: ain't a cowboy, can't be throwed." Now it can be said that there ain't many'a champion rodeo cowboy, rodeo cowgirl, or quarter horse from James Cathey's time who missed his eye, his shutter, or his collection.

Approximately one third of the collection's photographic negatives, those created in the years 1947 through 1954, was recently donated by James Cathey's family to one of his favorite institutions, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The rest of the collection's negatives are already housed at the museum's Dickinson Research Center and will be donated to the museum over the next several years. This transfer is a significant gift to the American public that would surely have pleased the photographer.

All images herein Copyright © 2017, James Cathey Heritage Collection LLC.
All are protected by U.S. copyright law, and none may be used without specific written permission from the copyright holder.

More about the collection
The entire James Cathey photo collection's copyrights are owned by James Cathey Heritage Collection, LLC, a Texas company which is operated by Cathey's sons, Gordon, Craig, and Tommy Cathey.

Plans for commercial development of and public access to the collection are under consideration. Portfolios of prints of select images and the publishing of books are in the plans. Public exhibits, especially those targeted to specific topics, such as GRA "All Girl" rodeos or early quarter horse champions, will be developed.

The photographic negatives that were recently moved to the Dickinson Reasearch Center of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum are currently being given proper archival protection and cataloging by the center's professional archivists. As this work progresses, many of the images will be made available to the public for personal, non-commercial use by their being scanned and published on the research center's website. As this process develops and images are published for public access, notice will be given on this web page.

To receive your own personal updates of upcoming developments and events,
please send an email request to either of the addresses below.

James Cathey Heritage Collection, LLC
For information, please contact

Gordon Cathey, 214-695-5178
Craig W. Cathey, 214-930-2237