Prescription for a Lawbreaker Doc Middleton’s horse thieving led to a racing opportunity.

doc middleton james riley true west magazine
Doc Middleton, a.k.a. James Riley.

Doc Middleton (real name: James Riley) was one of the greatest horse thieves of the Old
West era. Some estimates say he rustled 2,000 head over a two-year period, mostly in
Wyoming. His career started in 1865, at the age of 14, when he stole a horse in his native
Texas. He was arrested and jailed on several occasions.

Buffalo Bill heard of Middleton and gave him a straight job—participating in a horse race
from Nebraska to Chicago to promote the 1893 Columbian Exposition. He didn’t win,
but he didn’t steal any horses, either.

Mark Boardman is the features editor at True West and editor of The Tombstone Epitaph.

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