Here’s what we know about the notorious outlaw cats Butch and Sundance, who were cats and robbers active at the turn of the twentieth century in the Old West. Details are murky and accounts of their exploits vary widely.
Contrary to popular belief, they were more than just friends, but actually brothers. They may have been born to privilege, since even the earliest photos show them wearing full black and white tuxedos. Sundance has always been the quieter one and the better gunfighter. He also has more white fur. Butch is more outgoing, as well as the leader and brains behind the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang that they would later form. He has more black fur than Sundance.
Other members of this gang of ruthless outlaw cats included ‘Lefty Paw’ Lyle, an orange tabby who is rumored to have killed fifteen people and buried them neck-up in litter boxes throughout the American West. This is unconfirmed, and some written accounts found recently regarding Lyle’s exploits have the word ‘killed’ crossed out from the phrase ‘killed fifteen people’, and replaced with, ‘crawled into the laps of’.
The neck-up litter box burials are confirmed.
Another sometime member of this gang of infamous felines is the painter and ladies’ cat Picasso, a brown tabby. Some say that he actually lived much later than the rest of the members of the Hole in the Wall Gang, but they are wrong, and it is not necessary to look this up and check it, either. Picasso was active with the gang throughout his Cubist Cowboy period, and was of great help when Butch and Sundance fled to South America later in their careers, because he was the only cat who could speak Spanish.
Butch robbed his first bank in 1889, while still a kitten. He escaped with $21,000, a case of liver treats, and an unknown quantity of multi-colored yarn, most of it quite nice and sparkly. Soon after, his brother Sundance joined him, and together, they terrorized the west, robbing banks and trains, scratching furniture, biting toes, and throwing up on carpets.
Their usual methods involved storming in with guns drawn, yowling and hissing, fur on end, pawing the air menacingly. Surprised bank tellers and patrons would throw up their hands and give up all their money and shiny objects, muttering ‘Bad Kitty’ but otherwise helpless in the face of so many flashing claws and teeth.
Usually they would split up and go into hiding for a period after the robbery. Butch liked to hide under the bed, Sundance behind the TV. They would also frequent cat houses and saloons. Butch was a wily card player, and had an impressive poker face. He could sit on a royal flush without so much as a twitch of a whisker. He was a terrible sore loser, though. One Texan gentleman who dared take Butch’s money in a card game was shot in the back, his eyes scratched out, and then for good measure Butch pissed on his head, sending a message and marking his territory at the same time.
Almost immediately they became wanted cats. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was enlisted to track them down. ‘Lost Cat: Reward Dead or Alive’ fliers went up on telephone poles and horse hitches everywhere. The notorious tracker and enforcer Tom Horn was enlisted to help in the search. Horn tracked them through the High Sierras and was whisker-close to nabbing them at a cliff face on the edge of a river snaking through a canyon. Butch and Sundance, pinned on the edge of the cliff, and with no chance of escape, had the following conversation (according to local legend):
Butch: “Alright, I’ll jump first.”
Butch: “Alright, then you jump first.”
Sundance: “Meow, I said.”
Butch: “What’s the matter with you?”
Sundance: “I can’t swim!”
Butch (big lion laughing-at-a-gazelle laugh): “What, are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you!”
Sundance (after a long beat; eyes narrowing to slits): “We’re cats, dumbass. The fall’s not going to kill us. We land on our motherfucking feet.”
Butch: “Did you just call me a dumbass?”
They survived the jump and escaped. In all their years of crime and running from the law, they were never caught and never shot. Though once Butch did eat some dental floss which, after some time passed, had to be yanked from his ass, ever so slowly.
Legend has it that they finally ran out of luck after a payroll robbery in southern Bolivia in 1908. Cornered by forces of the Bolivian Army, Butch and Sundance made their last stand in a cardboard box they had crawled into out of curiosity. After a ferocious gun battle that left twenty-six soldiers dead, wounded, scratched, bitten, and peed on, Butch and Sundance rubbed noses one last time and ended it all.
Or did they?
Rumors persist that the two notorious cats escaped one last time to Southern California, where they currently reside (maybe). They hung up their holsters, shaved off their mustaches, and decided to live the straight and narrow life. Sundance married his old flame Etta Place, and the couple is expecting their first litter.
Butch came out with his own line of cat food and other items. He donates the profits to charity. He also races cars, takes acting jobs here and there, and likes to sit in the window and ogle birds.