The Evil Counterpart of the Cowboy who uses the same skill set to steal livestock, primarily cattle and horses. While livestock thievery is nearly as old as domesticated animals themselves, the Rustler does it wholesale. There are the two-bit versions, who steal a few cattle to sell for pocket change, but real Rustlers come in two versions:
- Hit and Run: This is essentially an action packed attack on a herd of cattle, (often on a Cattle Drive or during a Round-Up). The rustlers stampede the cattle, shooting their guns, often killing or injuring the Heroes, and then the Rustlers round up the largest bunch of cattle, and start their own Cattle Drive — sometimes towards Mexico. This is the open highway banditry version.
- Rebranding: This is more of a mystery version. Cattle are disappearing from the ranch, more than can be explained by Mountain Lions, Wolves, and Indians. Essentially one of the other ranchers in the area is stealing cattle by pasting their brand over the top of the rightful owners' brand. Expect talk about using a "running iron" and for particularly skilled re-branders the use of a Saddle Bag cinch ring.
- "Hank" of the "Death Patrol" (a feature appearing in Military Comics) was a rustler before he was convinced to sign up to fight Nazis as a fighter pilot.
- The Disney animated movie Home on the Range has a yodeling rustler as the main villain.
- Just about any western featuring a Cattle Drive has at least one rustler.
- Hang 'Em High is a Clint Eastwood western where, prior to the start of the movie, a rustler kills the owner of a large herd, poses as the rightful owner, and sells the herd to Eastwood's character. When friends of the murdered owner catch up with Eastwood, they decide that Eastwood must be the rustler and attempt to hang him.
- In Babe, the Hoggett's sheep are rustled a number of times.
- The Cowboys has a group of these as the main villains (and plot of the second half of the film), targeting the main characters' herd because their only guardians are an old man and a bunch of children. Their leader is exceptionally creepy.
- Many Australian Bushrangers started out as horse rustlers, including the real life outlaws Ned Kelly, The Outlaw Michael Howe, Captain Thunderbolt and Mad Dog Morgan. Unlike their American counterparts, Aussie horse thieves were often portrayed as Robin Hood type heroes who stole from the wealthy ranchers and bankers to feed impoverished Irish Determined Homesteader families.
- Louis L'Amour was fond of this as a plotline in his books.
- In A Town Like Alice stealing unbranded calves was almost a game and rival ranchers would joke about it.
- Rustlers often appear in the novels of J.T. Edson. Edson preferred to use the term 'cow thief' (one novel is even titled The Cow Thieves) which he claimed was the term in common use at the time.
- The Rudyard Kipling poem "The Lament of the Border Cattle Thief" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: the aforementioned thief has been captured, but promises that he will escape and wreak further havoc.
- The song "Hangman's Boogie", as performed by the Cowboy Copas, is from the viewpoint of a condemned rustler.
- It was possible for a player character to be a professional rustler in the 1st edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
- Cattle raids are a regular occurrence in the tribal society portrayed in King of Dragon Pass.
- Played with in an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The denizens of a frontier town are terrified of the "horse thieves" who are on their way. When they arrive, they actually turn out to be horses, who are professional thieves.
- Central to the plot of A Close Shave. No, really, the one with Wallace & Gromit.
- In Real Life history rustling was often considered a sort of gentleman's crime in many times and places; kind of a cross between sport and war.
- The richest bedouin leaders were usually the most successful rustlers.
- John Glubb's original Warriors Of The Desert Wind originally were recruited from men who had gotten their training in desert "rustling matches" before they enlisted. Often both as victim and as rustler at different times.
- The two great status markers in pre-Anglo Irish society were how many cows you had stolen and how many men you had killed. Indeed, most 'wars' in Old Ireland were more large-scale rustling raids than anything else. Heck, even the famous Chu Chulainn got in on the act; change the setting to Texas and the weapons from spears to six-shooters and The Cattle Raid of Cooley becomes a Western.
- The Highland Scots had similar habits, unsurprisingly. Later on, they preferred to steal English cattle, though.