Some elements of Yellowstone are very true to life, but most real ranchers have close ties with their communities and do not own helicopters.
The Dutton family and their Montana-based cattle ranch are at the centre of all the drama and intrigue in the popular Yellowstone series.
However, while the show is accurate in its portrayal of some of the aspects of ranch lifestyles, real-life ranchers have much closer ties with their communities and live much humbler lives.
About the Dutton family and Yellowstone ranch
After Yellowstone’s premiere in 2018, the show quickly became one of the most popular drama shows on television, with over 12 million fans tuning in to watch its fifth season’s premiere in 2022.
One of the reasons why the show has managed to attract so many viewers is because of the unique neo-western elements that the creators of the show, Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, manage to capture throughout it.
The story follows the influential yet unsteady Dutton family as they struggle for power and control over the now infamous Yellowstone cattle ranch.
Are ranchers really like Yellowstone?
As a result of the growing popularity of the show, the Dutton family, however dysfunctional they may be, and the entire Yellowstone ranch has found a way into many fans’ hearts over the years.
Most people who watch Yellowstone realise that the show is fictional, but the idea of the cowboy, rancher lifestyle seems so alluring on the show, that many fans have started to wonder how real-life ranchers and ranches compare to those which are depicted on Yellowstone.
The answer to this question is more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.” There are some accurate aspects and other, completely dramatised things about the way that ranchers and ranches are depicted in Yellowstone.
Over the years, various real-life cattle ranchers have weighed in with their opinions on the show’s depiction of their lifestyles.
Most of these ranchers agree that they have to deal with many of the same issues that John Dutton has to deal with on the show.
Some of these include tight profit margins, activist groups, severe and unpredictable weather conditions, as well as the threats of predators, poachers, and property developers.
On the other hand, most of these real-life ranchers also agree that Yellowstone glamorises the way that cattle ranchers actually live their day to day lives.
In reality, most ranchers drive beat-up old trucks and work extremely long hours in the grime and mulch every day to keep their businesses profitable, as opposed to the helicopter flights and extravagant lifestyle that the Dutton family has on the show.
Do ranchers really have a target on their backs like in Yellowstone?
While John Dutton and his Yellowstone ranch are often the target of activists, property developers, and even other members of the community on the show, real-life ranchers tend to be close-knit with their communities.
Real-life ranchers sometimes have to deal with these same issues, but they are much less imposing and dramatic in real life than they are on the show.
In general, ranchers tend to form tight bonds with their communities and may even help each other with work or equipment regularly.
What else did Yellowstone get wrong about ranches in Montana?
One of the fictional elements of Yellowstone that real Montana ranches quickly picked up on when they started watching the show is the over-exaggeration of the size of Yellowstone ranch and its proximity to towns like Bozeman and Helena.
Paradise Valley, where the Yellowstone ranch is located in the show, has been subdivided quite a few times over the years.
Moreover, there are not many patches of land remaining that would be big enough to house the ski resort and million dollar homes that the property developers had planned for Yellowstone in the show.
How can you experience a taste of the Yellowstone rancher life yourself?
Whether the show’s depiction of ranch life is accurate or not, there is an opportunity to experience some of this lifestyle for yourself at the real Yellowstone ranch in Montana.
The location where most of the scenes on the Yellowstone ranch in the show are filmed is actually called Chief Joseph Ranch. When the crew is not filming for a new series of the show, the location is rented out as a vacation home.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the Chief Joseph Ranch is located in Darby, Montana, and is about 200 miles further from the Yellowstone National Park than the show makes it seem.
However, even so, the ranch is a real family-owned working ranch that features the same beautiful landscapes and scenery pictured in the show.