Italian Cowboy Comes To America

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

Two years ago, I received an email from an Italian cowboy. Massimo Tupone, aka “Max,” wrote to say he followed my blog and was an avid fan of the American West. He lived in Guardiagrele, a small town up in the mountains of central Italy near Rome. Max and his friend Luca enjoyed team roping and all things cowboy. Also, did I happen to know a ranch where they could come work for two weeks in exchange for nothing more than room and board?

I introduced my new European friends to my internet acquaintances Joel and Rachel Maloney via email. The Maloneys have a ranch in southern Arizona, and they invited Max and Luca to stay in their bunkhouse and cowboy with them. According to the post-trip email I received, all four got along fabulously. I was super relieved, because I hadn’t actually met any of the involved parties in person. For all I knew, any one (or all) of them could have been ax murderers.

Here’s some international insight regarding the American West from Max, who is not an ax murderer.

CS: What is your background with horses?

MT: I’ve been around horses since a was a kid. It was a passion of my father’s, so we always had one or two horses around our house.

CS: How did you become interested in the American West?

MT: [Due to the] horses, I’ve grown up with a deep passion for the United States. I loved everything regarding the West, from big pickup trucks to cowboys, wide open spaces and big ranches. While the other kids in Italy loved to play soccer all day, I spent all my days with my horses.

CS: Where did you learn how to rope?

MT: Roping in my life arrived late in the years, because very few people do that around here. [When I was a kid, we had] a lot of people that do team penning, cutting, reining, but very few that roped and nobody close enough to my home to teach me.

italian cowboy

Max competes in team roping in both Europe and the United States.

CS: When did you first come to America?

MT: First time in Western USA was in Burns, Oregon. 20 years ago. [Me and Luca went on an organized trip] to the Maupin family’s ranch. We branded, doctored, castrated. I saw for the first time a rodeo. We did everything I only read on magazines, and I fell in love with this life.

CS: So, that inspired return trips?

CS: After that experience, we were in the USA many times. We spent days on ranches in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Last two years, we went to our friend Joel and Rachel’s. They have a ranch in Benson, Arizona. Two special people, I could never thank them enough for their hospitality and for what Joel is teaching us about ranching.

CS: How does raising cattle in Italy differ from American cattle ranching?

MT: In Italy, cattle breeding is pretty different from USA. Many farms have intensive breeding programs, so cows live only inside. Luckily, in the last years some people started to breed in more natural ways. The only problem is that we don’t have so much land to leave cattle free. It is pretty difficult find big pasture for cows. Anyway, something has changed, finally you can find Black Angus or Hereford, all breeds that never were around here before. One of my dreams is to have someday a herd of Black Angus to breed in the same way of the US ranches. I’m working on it at this moment.

italian cowboy

Max enjoys all kinds of riding, whether cowboying or team roping in an arena.

CS: When is your next trip to America?

MT: I’m planning to come back in Arizona next June [to work on a ranch]. I’d like to be at Cowpuncher Reunion Rodeo, never been there and next year I’ll try to be. Someday I’d like to come back to the Great Basin too.

CS: What is your favorite horseback/ranching activity?

MT: At this moment, in Italy, I’m doing team roping and ranch roping most of the time. I try to train every weekend in a small ranch in south of Italy. I’m also trekking horseback sometimes, I live in a mountainous area, so we have pretty nice trails and breathtaking landscape around here.

CS: Are there a lot of team roping events to attend in Italy? 

MT: The team roping situation is pretty different from north to south of Italy. In the north, in the past years this sport is growing quickly. Many people do roping at this time. Thanks to Mike Crouch, we have the European Team Roping Championship ETRC sanctioned by WSTR. There are 2 events a year here for qualification for Las Vegas finals, then 5 or 6 matches for the European championship. Plus, you can find finally some country fair with bull riding and roping events pretty close to American rodeos. From a couple of years, thanks to my friend Chiara Milani, we also have the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, with team roping, breakaway and tie down roping events for the girls. There are also many American people that rope here because we have some NATO military bases here in Italy.

CS: What is it like in the south of Italy?

MT: In the south, the situation is very different. No events, very few people that rope. We are trying to develop it in some way. I say never give up. I hope in some years we can eliminate the gap.

italian cowboy

A roping chute, a rope horse and a Border Collie dog contribute to a good time on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training, Ranch Life

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Fallon, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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