1965 - 2014 Cowboy and Western themed dolls

While updating this blog in June 2015 I realized that I had yet another category of dolls in my collection. Although I don't often seek out cowboy dolls, I noticed that this sub-group of the collection was slowly growing. Cowboy dolls played a very important role in the development of "dolls for boys", so it's only fitting that my blog has a page dedicated to them.
Best of the West, 12 inch action figures by "Louis Marx and Company", 1965 - 1976
In 1965, the year after the introduction of Hasbro's 12 inch G.I. Joe doll series, the first doll-like cowboy toys for boys were introduced by Marx. These were actually large size action figures with removable plastic accessories, including belts, vests and hats. The series was centered around a family of western heroes, Johnny West, Jane West and their four kids, Jaimie, Jay, Janice and Josie. The villain of the series was Sam Cobra. Four aboriginal figures were made, including Chief Cherokee, Princess Wild Flower, Fighting Eagle, and Geronimo. Other figures included Sheriff Garrett, General Custer, Captain Maddox, Daniel Boone, Davey Crockett, Zeb Zachary, Bill Buck, and Joe Gibson. Several horses and playsets completed the collection which remained in toy stores for a full decade.
The Lone Ranger, 10 inch doll by Gabriel, 1973

In 1973 Gabriel produced a very impressive series of 10 inch dolls based on the Lone Ranger. So far I've only managed to add one of the dolls from this set to my collection, though I would love to add many more. Above is Butch Cavendish, the villain of the collection. I am missing one of his guns but otherwise he is complete and undamaged, with all original pieces. Butch's horse Smoke was also made along with the Lone Ranger and his horse Silver, Tonto and his horse Scout, Dan Reid and his horse Banjo, and two additional aboriginal characters, Red Sleeves and Little Bear. A Mexican character named El Lobo was also produced. A Mysterious Prospector outfit for the Lone Ranger was sold with a grey pack burro/horse, and a Trapper outfit was sold with a canoe. A Calvary Patrol outfit was also made. Other accessories and playsets included a Tribal Tepee, a Prairie Wagon (to be used with one of the horses), Carson City and at least ten different Adventure Sets with various pieces of equipment. 
Legends of the West, 9.5 inch dolls by Excel Toy Corp, 1973 - 1978
I only learned about this series in 2015 which was quite a surprize. In all the years that I've been collecting toys I've never seen any of the dolls from this series listed in any action figure or doll price guides, yet this is a genuine vintage collection. Not only are there at least 11 dolls in this collection, it is also a very unique series as there are four female dolls.
Typically female characters are left out of "boys doll" collections, and if included there is usually only one token female. So to have four female characters is quite impressive for a vintage collection from the 1970's. The female characters include: Pocahontas, Belle Starr, Calamity Jane, and Annie Oakley. The male characters include five of the six characters that Mego would produce the following year in 1974 (Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyatt Earp, Cochise, and Davy Crockett) plus Jesse James and the African American character, Deadwood Dick.
Excel also produced a black and white Pinto horse, a brown and tan Pinto horse, and a white and brown Pinto horse. There was also a 4 inch action figure series produced that had additional characters. Here are two excellent websites that have documented these toys: http://colonelrainestoychest.blogspot.ca/2010/04/little-legends-of-action-figure-history.html
American West Series, 8 inch dolls by Mego, 1974
This series was part of the Mego company's "Official World's Greatest" series of 8 inch dolls. The set included six characters: Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull (which, incidentally, was dressed nothing like the real life Sitting Bull), Wyatt Earp, Cochise, and Davy Crockett. In addition to producing a Doge City playset, this collection included a light brown horse named Shadow. This was the same toy horse that Mego had previously included in their Action Jackson and Planet of the Ape collections. Therefore, even though only one horse was officially made for this Western set, the toy was produced in at least three colour variations (light brown, dark brown and black) allowing collectors to display several of their western Mego dolls on different Mego horses.

Tex Willer, 8 inch dolls by Mego, 1974 
This series was only sold in Italy. The costumes for these cowboy dolls were very colourful compared to typical cowboy outfits. For example, the main character, Tex Willer, wore a bright yellow jacket and bright blue pants. This collection of western dolls was essentially unknown to North American collectors until the late 1990s or early 2000s when the Mego Museum website announced the discovery of this "new" Mego series. The set includes: Tex Willer, Tiger Jack, Kit Willer, and Kit Carson. Here is a link to the Mego Museum page about this series:

Wrangler, 12 inch doll by ERTL, early 1980's
During the 1970's and 1980's it became common for manufacturers of denim jeans to promote their brand with a toy line of 12 inch fashion dolls. To promoted their "jeans for men", the Wrangler company produced TV and magazine advertisements that featured an actor portraying a rugged male cowboy character. In the early 1980's, ERTL produced a 12 inch fashion doll based on the character. A female Barbie style doll wearing denim jeans was also made to complete the set. A variety of outfits for the Wrangler cowboy was also produced and sold individually.

Grand Champions: Frontier Riders, 6 inch dolls by Marchon, 1993
Grand Champions is a line of toy horses and 6 inch dolls made by Marchon, which are targeted to girls. Most of the dolls in this series are female cowgirls or horse jockeys with rooted doll hair, while the male cowboys are rare additions to the series. The cowboy and aboriginal dolls shown below are from a series called "Grand Champions: Frontier Riders". These were the only dolls made for this particular series, which suggests that Marchon may have been attempting to target boys with this pair of western dolls. The set was sold at Toy's R Us stores in the United States.
The blond haired cowboy is shown above with his original red and white checkered shirt and denim jeans, but is missing his cowboy hat, vest, and brown chaps. Originally the aboriginal doll had a matching vest as well as head and arm bands, but is wearing the original pants.
Unfortunately these two dolls are nameless as Marchon didn't bother to provide character names on the packaging. However, each doll was sold in a boxed set with a horse that was named. So the horses get a name but not the guys! Poor little dudes! The cowboy's horse is named "Maverick" and the aboriginal's horse is "Scout". Both horses are described on the boxes as a "talking stallion", and each makes horse sounds and galloping sounds when a button is pressed. Several small accessories were also included, and the aboriginal doll also came with a teepee. 

Here is a closer look at the aboriginal doll's face and torso. The doll's arms and legs are made with a flexible rubber. I suspect the same material was used to make the head and torso too, but as they are thicker they don't bend and are solid (rather than hollow which is common with larger sized dolls). This little guy is jointed at the neck, shoulders, hips and knees.

Here's a look at the cowboy's face. As you can see, both dolls were made with the same head but in different colours. I find this head sculpt resembles the Ken head sculpt used in the 1980s through to the early 2000's. The hair style is especially reminiscent of the Ken doll from this era, which is shown on the Mattel page of this blog at this link:

Here are the dolls without their clothes to show the design of the doll body. The same moulds were reused to make both dolls, with different coloured plastic used for the skin tone. Even the heads are the same mould but painted with different hair colours. Only the lower half of the legs are unique to each doll. The joints at the top of the legs are made the same way Hasbro made their 1990's 12 inch G.I. Joe and Star Wars dolls, which is interesting as these western dolls are from the same period. The Hasbro doll body is shown on this blog at the following link:

The boots and moccasins are sculpted on as the doll's feet and painted. Here is a closer look at the feet to show the different sculpts. I find it odd that Marchon would go through the extra trouble of sculpting different feet for these dolls but didn't bother to give them different heads, which seems a tiny bit more important.
I think these little dudes would make a nice couple, don't you? After all, being the only two dolls in the "Frontier Riders" collection would mean that they would have spent a lot of time alone together out in the wilderness while having adventures on the wild frontier. I bet they became very close. Fortunately, I found each of these dolls quite by chance on e-bay, one at a time, so I'm glad to reunite these two young lovers. Don't they look happy! Gosh, it warms the heart. :)

"Save a horse, ride a cowboy!"
Someday I'd like to find the two horses for these guys, then they won't have to carry each other like this. In fact the boxed sets would be nice to own, but until then I think these little dudes at least deserve names, even if they aren't official ones. So I'm going to name the cowboy Randy McCade and the aboriginal will be Charles "Keewatin" Strongwood. That should do the trick! :) Randy and Charles!
Anyways, I found most of the REAL information about these dolls on a fan website that is dedicated entirely to Grand Champion dolls:
Here is the official Grand Champions website:
The same company has a section of their website about another series of western dolls "Horse Country" which also has a male cowboy, seen on this page:
Breyer Ponies Collection, 7 inch doll and horse by Breyer, 1999
Like the Grand Champions series mentioned above, the Breyer Ponies collection is a toy line targeted to girls. Most of the dolls in this series are female cowgirls, jockeys or competition riders with the male characters being the rare exception. This is one of the few cowboy dolls from the collection. He's number 7002 and was sold in a box set with his horse. A small comb was included for girls to comb the horses long rooted doll hair mane and tail.
Also like the Grand Champions line, Breyer didn't bother to give this 7 inch cowboy doll a name. The set is listed as "Horse and Rider Gift Set" in the mini catalogue that came with the toys. The thing that I like best about this guy, is that he's wearing a shiny white shirt and teal chaps. It's the reason I bought this little dude! Yee haw! I think it's safe to conclude that he's not trying to attract the ladies. I've tried several times over the years to find this cowboy a matching 7 inch cowboy doll to be his boyfriend but so far have had no luck. These male Breyer cowboy dolls don't seem to show up online very often.
Here's a closer look at his face.
Here is a comparison of sizes with the Marchon 6 inch aboriginal doll from 1993, the Breyer 7 inch cowboy from 1999, and an 8 inch Mego Spider-Man doll from the 1970's. 
This is more or less how the cowboy doll and his horse came packaged in the box.

The back of the box shows pictures of the four doll and horse sets that were available, as well as a barn playset.
The toys came with a mini 1999 Breyer catalogue which lists even more 7 inch dolls among the many other toy horses.

Page 8 shows the "Breyer Classic Barn" that is identical to the one shown on the back of the box but with a red roof instead of green.

Page 9 shows three additional 7 inch dolls that were available including another rare male doll, "Cowboy Billy". For some reason these dolls were deemed worthy of being given official names, along with most of the "Action Rider" dolls below, unlike our unlucky nameless cowboy friend shown above. Note that the small print says that the horses are not included with these dolls. Apparently just the saddles and horse reigns are included. I've never been able to find pictures of these dolls online, and have never seen what they look like in original packaging. Click on the pictures to see a larger version.

These seven 7 inch "Action Rider" dolls are shown on page 10 of the catalogue and include two additional male dolls. The first one is yet another unlucky nameless male, "Race Horse Jockey", while the other is "Western Stampede Riggins" whose name, unlike any of the other Breyer dolls, was for some reason deemed worthy of a trademark symbol! So that means that nobody else can use the name "Western Stampede Riggins" because it's trademarked. What an extremely disappointing bit of news! LOL :)

Here is page 11 which shows all six of the horse and rider sets, four of which are shown on the back of the box, and two seem to be additions to the series. The "Breyer Ponies Barn" with the green roof, that is seen on the back of the box, is also shown.

Page 12 and 13 present many different accessories that were made for the horses that go with the dolls, including several different saddles, halters, a fly mask, a grooming kit, a feed bag and...Wow!... a bucket!

Page 14 shows more horse accessories and two more playsets, the "Breyer Barn Traditional Size" which is bigger than the Ponies barn, and an even larger "Wood Horse Barn".
Years ago I did an internet search to find other male characters in this series and discovered a "Rough Riding USA Rodeo Stars" cowboy with bucking horse, a Jockey (with black jacket and white pants), a Farrier (with red and black chequered jacket), Austin Cowboy (with white shirt and black chaps), and another Rodeo type cowboy sold without a horse (with black vest, tan chaps, blue jeans and lasso). I'm not sure if all of these are 7 inch dolls, or if some are 8 inch dolls.
When I updated this section in June 2015 I did a follow up web search to see if I could find any additional info, and found quite a bit! Breyer seems to have continued this collection of 7 inch doll/horse sets well into the early 2000's (at least). The numbering for the sets started with 7001 and I've found one that is 7021, so there are at least 21 toy sets in this 7 inch doll/horse collection with at least three more male dolls. In any case, I've counted 12 male dolls in this collection so far including those shown above.
Here is the numbering and related product that I know of to date:
7001 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Bay (Female doll in red jacket, no hat, possibly same doll as 7006)
7002 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Sorrel (Cowboy in teal chaps, white shirt and hat, shown above)
7003 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Red Roan (Cowgirl in teal shirt, white hat)
7004 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Dapple Grey (Cowgirl in red chaps and hat, white shirt)
7005 Horse and Foal Gift Set, Palomino Pinto (Cowgirl with blue and yellow outfit, white hat)
7006 Horse and Foal Gift Set, Grey & Bay (Female doll, red jacket, no hat, possibly same as 7001)
7007 ????
7008 ????
7009 ????
7010 Breyer Ponies Barn with green roof (same as item 650, Breyer Classic Barn with red roof)
7011 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Cowboy (Cowboy in black chaps and hat, purple shirt)
7012 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Cowgirl (Cowgirl in black chaps, white shirt and hat)
7013 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Equestrian (Female doll in green jacket)
7014 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Jockey (Female doll in yellow and blue outfit)
7015 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Star Spangled Cowgirl (Cowgirl in red chaps, white shirt and hat)
7016 Horse and Rider Gift Set, Rodeo Cowboy (Cowboy in black chaps and hat, denim shirt)
7017 Horse and Foal Gift Set, Veterinarian (Female veterinarian in white jacket)
7018 Horse and Foal Gift Set, (Cowgirl in red shirt, dark blue pants and white hat)
7019 Horse and Foal Gift Set, (Female doll in red jacket and hat, similar to 7001 and 7006)
7020 ????
7021 Deluxe Gift Set, wedding theme (Bride and Groom with white horse)
7200 (this number might be incorrect) Barn Playset (this is an all-new playset)
720533 All American Rodeo (Cowgirl in denim jeans, red and white shirt, white hat)
????(number?) Trick Rider Set, cowgirl in American flag themed outfit

I found the information about the wedding set, 7021,  at this link, which has several photos:

Here is another awesome website set up to help collectors identify their Breyer items. The page liked below will take you to a page that will allow you to look through essentially every Breyer catalogue from 1964 to present, which is quite remarkable!

Grand Ole Opry Ken, 12 inch doll by Mattel, 1999
The same year that the second Harley Davidson Ken was available Mattel offered this Grand Ole Opry Ken doll. Unfortunately he was sold in a two pack set with Barbie. I thought this Ken was interesting enough to get anyways, and I gave the Barbie to my sister. I didn't bother to keep the box either, I just wanted the Ken. Mattel did an awesome job with the detail such as a headset microphone and a flocked cowboy hat. Ken's guitar even has separately attached strings. Of course, Ken has been a cowboy on many occasions in his long career as a fashion doll. There have been at least five different cowboy Ken dolls or outfits produced. It seems that a horse has yet to be marketed specifically for Ken, though several have been produced for Barbie.

The Lone Ranger, 12 inch dolls, 2013
In 2013 Disney attempted to launch a new franchise based on the Lone Ranger with the release of an extensively hyped and advertised film. Unfortunately the film didn't do well in theatres and all plans to continue with the Lone Ranger franchise were dropped. None the less, the marketing for the film resulted in a pair of very well made 12 inch Lone Ranger dolls, with actor Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as a very unique version of Tonto. The Lone Ranger's horse, Silver, was also made as part if the 12 inch doll set. The dolls were available through the Disney website and at Disney theme parks.
Cowboy Austin, 8 inch doll by Breyer, 2014

In June 2015 I bought this 8 inch Breyer "Cowboy Austin" doll online. The box has a copyright date of 2014. Even though the description said 8 inches I automatically assumed this doll was 7 inches, the same as the Breyer cowboy doll I bought in 1999, shown above near the top of this blog page. Therefore, when this doll arrived and I opened the parcel I was quite surprized to see that this was an 8 inch doll as it makes the doll even more Mego like, which is all good! The only bad thing is that I had hoped this would be a matching cowboy doll for the 1999 doll, but it seems it's not to be. Sigh! Still, this is a very cool cowboy doll and I'm glad to have it in my collection.
Here is a closer look at Cowboy Austin's face. Rather than being a rugged cowboy, Austin is clearly a pretty boy. Perhaps he's a metrosexual cowboy? :) In any case, Austin has very small hands for an 8 inch doll.

This doll's outfit was very well made with excellent detail. I like how they gave him a denim blue collar on his shirt. Austin's shirt also has a metal snap on the front to keep it closed, the same as used on 8 inch Mego dolls in the 1970s.

Here is a view of the doll out of the box. I want to keep this doll as original as possible, so I didn't take him off of the insert.
Here's a comparison of the Breyer doll sizes showing the 8 inch Cowboy Austin doll from 2014 and the 7 inch doll from 1999.
Here is another comparison with the 8 inch Mego Spider-Man doll, which is actually 7 and 7/8 inches tall, while the taller Breyer doll is 8 and 2/8 inches tall.
The back of the box for Austin Cowboy shows a collection of 7 dolls including another male doll "Farrier Jake with Blacksmith Tools".
Here is a closer look at the "Farrier Jake" doll shown on the box. I've seen an image of this doll online that has a very different head sculpt than this one, with a dark hair colour rather than blond, so the above image may be a prototype rather than the actual doll that was made.

That's all for now for this blog page!
All text and photos © Mike Artelle, 2011, 2013

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