25 Most Notorious Outlaws Of The Wild West

Posted by , Updated on November 18, 2022

Immortalized in a number of films, songs, folklore, and even video games, the American Wild West has become famous for its cowboys, gunslingers, and outlaws. Though the most notorious outlaws of the Wild West were considered enemies of the state, today they are often spoken of as heroes and trailblazers. Regardless of what you think of them though, no one can argue that these are definitely the 25 most notorious outlaws of the wild west.


Doc Holliday

Doc Hollidaywestactshoot.clicboard.com

In the 125-year plus years since his death, his legend lives on as debates continue about the exact crimes that John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday committed. He earned a DDS degree in dentistry before he became a renowned gambler and gunfighter. He moved to the southwest when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis at age 15, which is where he took up gambling and acquired a reputation as a deadly gunman.


Thomas Edward Ketchum

Thomas Edward Ketchumwww.findagrave.com

Black Jack was a cowboy who later turned to a life of crime after leaving Texas in 1890. He joined several other outlaws of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, which focused on robbing trains and ranches. He was hanged in 1901 after being caught during one of the train robberies.


John Joshua Webb

John Joshua Webbwww.farwest.it

A noted lawman before he turned to being a gunfighter and an outlaw, Webb was a high profile criminal who used his connections to his advantage. He was convicted for murder and after an unsuccessful jail break attempt; he fled to Texas and changed his name to Samuel King, where he died of smallpox in 1882.


Hoodoo Brown

Hoodoo Brown1973whsreunion.blogspot.com

Born Hyman G. Neil, the leader of the Dodge City Gang that terrorized Las Vegas, New Mexico from 1879 to early 1880 was considered to be the ‘baddest cowboy of them all. He used his high ranking political position to cover up most of the gang’s crimes, but the citizens of Las Vegas had enough of his corruption and they organized vigilantes to overthrow him in the summer of 1880.


Cherokee Bill

Cherokee Billwww.badassoftheweek.com

Born Crawford Goldsby, Cherokee Bill was a 19th century outlaw who was known to have a quick trigger finger. He and his gang terrorized the Indian Territory for over two years before he was hanged on March 17, 1896 at the age of 20. His crime spree began when he was just 18 years old after shooting Jake Lewis for beating up his younger brother. He joined with outlaws Jim and Bill Cook and began terrorizing Oklahoma until his apprehension.


Isaac “Ike” Black

Isaac “Ike” Blackwww.legendsofamerica.com

An outlaw in Kansas and Oklahoma, he first got into trouble with the law for stealing cattle in Kansas, though he became more notorious for teaming with the outlaw fugitive Zip Wyatt in early 1890’s. The pair formed a gang and made numerous robberies in the area including the well known post office in Arapaho and the Hightower Store.


Henry Newton Brown

Henry Newton Brownwww.kshs.org

Both lawman and outlaw during his life, he rode with Billy the Kid’s gang as they rustled cattle. After the Kid returned to Mexico, he decided to stay in Texas and took a job as a deputy sheriff in Oldham County. He was later fired for picking fights with drunks and was hired as an assistant marshal in Caldwell. He cleaned the tough town quickly, which gave him the title, ‘one of the quickest men on the trigger in the Southwest.’ However, he reverted back to his old outlaw ways and was involved in a shootout during a bank robbery. He was lynched by an angry mob in 1884.


The Bloody Espinosas

The Bloody Espinosaswww.legendsofamerica.com

A gang made up of cousins led by brothers Felipe and Jose, they were feared by the residents of the Colorado Territory in 1863. They all came from Vera Cruz, Mexico where they had witnessed the killings of six of their family members when their town was shelled during the Mexican-American War. They also claimed their land grant was not being honored due to an increasing number of white settlers squatting in their property. Eventually, they resorted to horse stealing and murdering white settlers. They were later killed after being tracked down by the US Cavalry.


William “Curly Bill” Brocius

William “Curly Bill” Brociusen.wikipedia.org

A gunman, rustler and an outlaw cowboy in Cochise County, he was called  ‘Curly Bill’ due to his thick, curly head. He became a leader in one of the Cowboy gangs of cattle rustlers in Tombstone, Arizona. He was also a heavy-drinker and while working as a tax collector has accidentally killed Marshal Fred White. He was acquitted and even Wyatt Earp testified at his defense. However, he later shot and killed him in retaliation for the death of his brother, Morgan Earp.


Sam Bass

Sam Basswww.franksrealm.com

An American train robber and outlaw, he started out as an honest man who ran away from an abusive uncle and went to Mississippi to work in a saw mill before becoming a cowboy in Texas. In 1876, he and a rough character named Joel Collins were supposed to drive a herd of longhorns up north where they fetched higher prices, but they stole them and split the $8,000 profit between themselves and spent it on gambling. They also got into stagecoach and train robberies where they netted $60,000 from the gold train, the largest robbery of the Union Pacific. He was wounded by a Texas Ranger during one of their heists and died two days later on his 27th birthday.


James Averell

James Averellwww.legendsofamerica.com

An alleged cattle rustler, he was unjustly hanged along with ‘Cattle Kate Wilson’ by a faction of cattle barons, which has become one of the many incidents that led to the Johnson County War. He was a military man who was initially assigned to Fort Douglas, Utah and Fort McKinley, Wyoming, near Buffalo. While in Buffalo, he shot and  killed a man, but was never convicted. He later became a homestead owner who defied large cattle baron, Albert J. Bothwell. As the dispute lingered into months, he and Cattle Kate were branded as outlaws and eventually killed.


Thomas Coleman Younger

Thomas Coleman Youngerwww.franksrealm.com

An American Confederate guerilla-turned outlaw, he became a member of the James-Younger gang along with his younger siblings, Jim, John and Bob with Jesse and Frank James. He joined the Confederate Army after the murder of his father, but became one of the suspects in the 1868 robbery of Nimrod Long & Co. in Kentucky. Besides banks, they also robbed stage coaches and trains but their luck ran out in a botched bank robbery on September 7, 1876. He and his brothers pleaded guilty to avoid the death sentence and were later paroled.


Zip Wyatt

Zip Wyatt[email protected]

Born Nathaniel Ellsworth Wyatt, Zip was also known for his other aliases, Wild Charlie and Dick Yeager. His father who was frequently arrested for drunkenness and disorderly conduct was known in Guthrie, Oklahoma as ‘Old Six-Shooter Bill;’ while his older brother, Nim, a professional gambler, was known as ‘Six-Shooter Jack.’ His life as an outlaw started on June 3, 1891 when he shot up the town of Mulhall and wounded two citizens. While evading arrests, he became involved in a life of crimes including a number of robberies and other crimes.


James Miller

James Millerwww.americancowboychronicles.com

Known as Deacon Jim because he regularly attended the Methodist church and did not smoke or drink, he was also a paid assassin with a going rate of $150 to $2000. He ambushed his victims at night wearing a black frock coat, so as not to be easily detected. He was also credited for killing 12 people during gunfights, but was eventually lynched by angry mobs for killing a former Deputy US Marshal.


Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clydeimgur.com

If there were outlaws that became legends for living fast and dying young, the duo of Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Champion Barrow takes the cake as shown in the 1967 film ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’ They formed the band the Barrow Gang, along with Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law Buck and Blanche as they went on a robbing and killing spree across Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. They were killed in Louisiana by police rangers while attempting to evade arrest.


Fred Waite

Fred Waitetheellisoncollection.com

A Chickasaw cowboy, he joined Billy the Kid’s gang, the Regulators, but later quitted to return to his people. As a gunfighter for the gang he killed a number of people including several sheriffs. After he left the gang, he became a prominent politician among the Chickasaw nation until his death at the age of 42, before he could start serving as their governor.


The Sundance Kid

The Sundance Kidwww.chronicleoftheoldwest.com

Also known as Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, he was an outlaw and member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch Gang, which was known for the longest strings of successful train and bank robberies in history. He got his moniker when he was caught and convicted for horse thievery in Sundance, Wyoming. He and Robert LeRoy Parker formed a gang after he was released from prison in 1896 and it was believed that he was killed in a shootout in Bolivia, though his family members refuted it.


Pearl Hart

Pearl Hartwww.legendsofamerica.com

A Canadian-born American outlaw, her career as a stage coach robber was short-lived. She drifted into bad company after her abusive husband left her to fight in the Spanish-American War. She and Joe Boot, a gambler, planned a robbery so she could return to her dying mother in Canada, but they were captured and imprisoned. She charmed her way out of prison, but was recaptured and served only two years out of five in a male prison. She was pardoned by the governor upon learning that she was pregnant.


Butch Cassidy

Butch Cassidylastdaysoftheincas.com

Born Robert Leroy Parker, Butch Cassidy was the leader of the Wild Bunch Gang who became notorious for robbing trains and banks in the American West. His last name, Cassidy, was a tribute to his friend and mentor Mike Cassidy who taught him how to shoot. He and three others robbed $21,000 from the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride in 1889, where he used his share to buy the infamous ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’ ranch, which was believed to be a cover for his illegal activities.


Belle Starr

John Wesley Hardinknoji.com

The Bandit Queen was born Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr before becaming a notorious outlaw. She lived a spoiled, rich girl life, having been brought up from a well-to-do family. Her life changed, however, when the Kansas-Missouri War broke out and residents were forced to take sides. Her marriage to the outlaw Jim Reed also made her a notorious bandit, whose life was immortalized in the novel, ‘Bella Starr, the Bandit Queen.’


John Wesley Hardin

John Wesley Hardinknoji.com

Named after the founder of the Methodist church, Hardin was just 14-year-old when he stabbed another boy who was taunting him. He then spent the majority of his life being pursued by the law until he was captured in 1878. This American outlaw and gunfighter claimed to have killed 42 men, though the newspapers attributed only 27 killings. He wrote his autobiography and studied law while in prison, but was shot dead a year after he was released in 1894 by John Selman Jr. in the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas.




Geronimo was a prominent leader of the Bedonkohe Apache, who was also known for his Chiricahua name, Goyathlay or Goyahkla or ‘one who yawns’. After an attack by a company of Mexican soldiers on his camp in 1858 where his mother, wife and three children were killed, he became a fierce Indian warrior, joining the Chiricahua in their numerous raids in northern Mexico and across the US borders. He surrendered in 1886 and became a celebrity as he appeared in fairs, a decision that he regretted because he was never allowed to return to the land of his birth.


Jesse James

Jesse Jamescelebsteam.com

Jesse Woodson James was already a celebrity when he was alive, and has became even more legendary after his death. One of the most famous members of the James-Younger Gang, he became a criminal for robbing banks, stage coaches and trains. He was shot in the back of his head on April 3, 1882 in his own home by his trusted friend, Robert Ford, who was hoping to collect the reward money.


The Apache Kid

The Apache Kidamertribes.proboards.com

Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl or ‘the tall man destined to come to a mysterious end,’ was better known as the Apache Kid who was said to have been the fiercest Apache next only to Geronimo. A notorious outlaw of the late 19th century in Arizona and New Mexico, he was first enlisted as an Apache scout to fight off the numerous raiding bands of the Apaches that harassed the early settlers before he became a renegade. The Apache Kid character of the Marvel comics was named after him, though their stories were not connected.


Billy the Kid

Billy the Kidpublicdomainclip-art.blogspot.com

Also known as William H. Bonney or Henry Antrim, Billy the Kid is a legendary outlaw of the American Old West whose life has become sensationalized in movies, songs, and books. He became notorious for supposedly killing 21 people for each year of his life, although factual evidence suggests he only killed 4 in his lifetime. Though he was depicted as a cold-bloodied killer, those who knew him believed that he became an outlaw out of necessity.

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