Is Yellowstone Based On A True Story?

One of the more popular shows on the Paramount Network, according to Variety, is the drama "Yellowstone." Specifically, the critically-acclaimed drama, starring Kevin Costner, is the most-watched show on basic cable (discounting streaming), even beating out "The Walking Dead" in popularity, though it gets nowhere near the attention, press, and water-cooler talk that the latter generates, according to Vanity Fair. That may be due in part to the fact that the audience for "Yellowstone" largely comes from demographics that tend to be overlooked in the TV ratings business — specifically, rural viewers or those who admire the rural lifestyle. Much of the show's press can be found not on the major pop-culture websites such as Entertainment Tonight, but on more niche corners of the internet, such as Country Living or the Pioneer Woman blog.

In fact, the show tends to pride itself on gritty realism, taking an unflinching look at the realities of managing a ranch in 21st-century America. So "real" is the show that some viewers are convinced it's based on a true story.

'Yellowstone' is not based on any one true story

As HITC reports, "Yellowstone" exists in a sort of plane between fantasy and reality. In real life, there is no family called the Duttons who own a staggeringly large ranch in Montana. The largest ranch in the country isn't even found in Montana, but in Texas.

However, the documented and historical realities of ranching, and life in the American west, are never far from the script of "Yellowstone." According to Marie Claire, Kevin Costner (above) devoted plenty of time to researching the area and its history in order to form his character. Further, the Duttons and their ranch may have been collectively inspired by a real Texas rancher from the middle 1800s. As Outsider notes, the story of the W.T. Waggoner Estate might, however obliquely, serve as at least part of the inspiration for the Duttons. Waggoner began his ranch in 1849, and within years it had expanded to hundreds of thousands of acres and had made his family millionaires. It remained in the family for the better part of two centuries before it was sold in 2016. Similarly, other real ranches and the families who owned them may have also contributed to the "Yellowstone" scripts.