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Friday, September 27, 2013

Wild West Photo Friday: Mexican Rurales

These tough looking hombres are Mexican rurales from the late 19th century. The rurales were officially called Guardia Rural (Rural Guard) and were founded in 1861 to fight the numerous bandits that infested the Mexican countryside.

They were a cavalry force that chased criminals across the land and quickly gained a reputation for brutal efficiency. They were trained like soldiers but acted like gunslingers. In fact, many bandits, once caught, were given the choice between prison or joining the rurales!

During the wild days in Arizona in the 1880s, when places like Tombstone were getting shot up on a regular basis, the rurales had their work cut out for them. The Cowboys, a loose-knit group of rustlers living in southern Arizona, often went south of the border to steal cattle, bring them north over the border, rebrand them, and then sell them.

Mexican ranchers, of course, resisted, and often got killed. The rurales stepped in and started fighting the Cowboys. They took some tough hits (which we'll talk about in a later post) but eventually put enough pressure on the Cowboys that they started rustling American ranches instead, as well as robbing stagecoaches. This escalation of crime north of the border heightened tensions in Tombstone with the law enforcement faction led by Wyatt and Virgil Earp and eventually led to the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

The rurales still exist and still fight bandits, although mostly they work to eradicate marijuana crops.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Interesting. Great photo; musical instruments and guns.

  2. Prison or join the ranks - no brainer there!

  3. There are so many things that shocked me, I don't know where to start. The criminals became Rurales?! I guess it must be due to a high death rate. And they're still active today? Wow! Are those trumpets in front of them in the pictures? Were they Mariachi players on the side? lol

  4. They also had a dark reputation in Mexico. During The Christero Wars where hundreds if not thousands of Catholics were murdered under the orders of then President of Mexico Plutarco Calles. Calles believed the Catholic Church had too much power and started his war. Getting back to the Rurales, they would hang or decapitate anybody who said they were practising Catholics. So yeah they have always been a bunch of slimeballs.


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