Is Costner’s Yellowstone role based off a real person?

Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan continues to build a stoic authenticity into Costner’s character by portraying John Dutton as a sort of abstract montage of real-life ranchers. 

Of the key figures who may have helped inspire John Dutton, it’s a safe bet that W.T. Waggoner is among them. Established in 1849 in Northern Texas, the Waggoner Ranch is the current title holder for America’s biggest ranch – a title also held by the Dutton Yellowstone Ranch on the Paramount Network series. Like the Duttons, W.T. Waggoner was keen on keeping the 510,000-acre ranch in the family; the land passed on to Waggoners and their descendants for almost two centuries before it was sold in 2015.  

If you’re looking for more modern inspiration for John Dutton, Bill Galt, who owns Montana’s 248,000-acre Galt Ranch, is likely your man. He’s a Montana-based rancher, reportedly keeps an eye on his land via helicopter, and has been known to take meetings with a politician or two between cattle drives. Galt has also been hailed as “The Last American Cowboy,” which is a label we can all agree is equally suited to John Dutton.

As for Costner, it seems the actor has woven elements from his own family’s tragic farming past into John Dutton’s fabric, using his father’s real-life 30-30 rifle as a prop on the show. Nothing says “legacy matters here” like taking up your father’s gun and fighting “the man” — even if “the man” you’re fighting is fictional.  

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