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Buffalo Bill museum features pictures of Italian cowboys

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Posted at 10:46 PM, May 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-08 12:52:29-04

An exhibit on at the Buffalo Bill Center Of The West in Cody is highlighting cowboys from outside the U.S.

Buffalo Bill had a connection with Italian butteri, or cowboys.

The exhibit started on Oct. 8 of last year and the photographer came back to Cody last week.

Italy’s Legendary Cowboys of the Maremma features 31 pictures taken by Gabrielle Saveri.

Saveri took pictures of Italian cowboys in a certain part of Italy, showing the culture and the lifestyle out there.

It's a chance to compare what's happening in Italy with Montana and Wyoming.

Saveri talked about her picture of the cowboys rounding up horses.

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"The light was perfect," she said. "They were running across. It was just perfect. The whole thing was perfect. It was magical for me to see this."

It looks like scenes from the America west, but Saveri's pictures were taken halfway around the world in Maremma, Italy.

"I started out because I love horses and I had this dream to go ride with the Cowboys," she said.

Saveri has worked as a journalist with serveral news outlets including Newsweek, People and The Washington Post.

She originally went from her home in Napa, California to Italy for the pictures.

But she soon learned those Italian cowboys are disappearing, a profession and a way of life fading from society.

"It's just a hard way to make a living and they're just fewer and fewer," Saveri said. "It's just there are other places they can go and get paid better."

Many of the cattle ranching skills and traditions date back to the Etruscans who were in ancient Italy, sometime around 1000 B.C. to 90 B.C.

"They're actually branding it and this is a kind of a family farm," Saveri said about one of her pictures. "They use ropes and then they bring the cow down to the ground and then they brand them."

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All these Italian cowboys are on display at the museum partly because of a connection to the museum's namesake, Buffalo Bill Cody.

Legend has it Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was touring Italy in 1890 when he made a bet with a prince that American cowboys could tame horses better than Italian butteri.

William Cody last but in the end, each side claimed victory.

"That was called la sfida," Saveri said about the bet. "La sfida in italian means a bet or challenge. So to this day, la sfida is an important part of the history connecting Cody and Buffalo Bill to the Italian butteri."

"There are millions of stories about Buffalo Bill," said Ken Straniere, the museum's P.R. and marketing director. "You know he was a showman. He went all over the world. He was bigger than the Beatles. He's a legend for a reason."

Straniere first heard about the butteri and Buffalo Bill's connection to the Italian cowboys from Gabrielle

"You can get a real sense of it and appreciation for Europe just in looking at their faces and their weathered hands and what they go through on a day to day basis to sustain their lifestyle," Straniere said about Saveri's pictures.

"Once you're a cowboy, you're a cowboy whether you're a cowboy in Wyoming or you're a cowboy in Italy or you're a cowboy in France," Saveri said. "They sort of have some of the same values and they're doing what they can to keep things the way that they've been. The tradition is important and they're trying to make and keep the world a better place."

The exhibit which also includes video runs until August 6.