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John Dutton in Yellowstone explained

It wouldn't be Yellowstone without John Dutton in charge. Here's everything you need to know about the head honcho of the TV series, from his job to his past.

John Dutton explained: Kevin Costner as John Dutton

Who is John Dutton in Yellowstone? Honestly, asking this question would be like stepping into Heaven and asking “Who is God?”, but we’ll take any opportunity to talk endlessly about the head of the Dutton family.

In Yellowstone, John Dutton is the man in charge. The flagship Yellowstone series opens on the unforgettable image of  a blood-soaked John Dutton reaching out and saying goodbye to his horse, mangled from a car accident, before shooting it in the head. This is how Taylor Sheridan introduced the main character of the best TV series around.

John Dutton is played in the Yellowstone cast by Kevin Costner. (And we all know how that turned out.) But there’s no denying that, out of all the patriarchs in the Yellowstone timeline, John is the top dog. So, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about the man himself with our guide on John Dutton explained. You’re welcome, partner.

Who is John Dutton in Yellowstone?

John Dutton is essentially the lead character of Yellowstone, the patriarch and business head of the Yellowstone ranch.

Basically, if Logan Roy lived on a ranch, this is who we’re looking at. John Dutton may not be as foul-mouthed as his big city counterpart, but he’s just as ruthless and can be just as distant with his own children. John’s ultimate goal is to protect the legacy of Yellowstone and ensure that it’s handed down to the next generation of Duttons.

John doesn’t always stand on the right side of the law but always does what he believes is right for his family and his land. Often, this means he comes face-to-face with some pretty foul enemies, but John has enough friends in the right places to get through most traps.

John Dutton explained: Kevin Costner and Luke Grimes as John and Kayce Dutton

John and the Dutton family explained

John is the big cheese. The big daddy. The big…Dutton. The Dutton children are constantly volleying for his attention, whilst also often finding themselves hating their father for being the very thing they also admire him for. John is quick to chastise his children for disobeying him, but he does sometimes show moments of affection in his own way.

John and Beth have one of the most surprising relationships of the bunch. Beth often serves as his advisor and right-hand man, but John is often uncomfortable with Beth’s crass and crude nature as his only daughter. Still, even when the two come to blows, you can’t help but feel that John favors Beth sometimes since she’s probably the smartest and most vicious of the Dutton brood.

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John’s adopted son Jamie serves as his biggest disappointment (and ours, honestly). Jamie has flip-flopped his Dutton loyalty more than a fish on land, so it’s no wonder that John usually decides to keep him at arm’s length. John’s no idiot — he knows when someone’s untrustworthy.

Although Lee Dutton died in the first episode, it’s easy to sense that he may have been the answer to John’s lifelong quest for the Dutton legacy to be secured. Lee lived on the ranch full-time and knew the ins and outs of how it all worked. Essentially, he was likely the one who would have taken charge should something have happened to John.

Finally, we have Kayce. John and Kayce’s relationship began in the most difficult of circumstances, in which John, upon hearing that Kayce had got his girlfriend (Monica) from the Broken Rock Reservation pregnant, asked his son to encourage her to get an abortion. Kayce, naturally, vowed never to speak to his father again.

That said, the two have slowly grown closer and started healing old wounds, and John is devoted to his grandson Tate. John trusts Kayce with several prominent jobs within both the ranch and the livestock association, and it’s clear that underneath it all, he would do anything for Kayce, Monica, and Tate.

John Dutton explained: Kevin Costner as John Dutton

John Dutton’s job explained

Aside from being one of the coolest dudes around, John Dutton has actually spent the years working his way up to a position in the Montana State government, whether he likes it or not. When the series began, John was head of the Yellowstone ranch and Livestock Commissioner.

John’s tactics when acting as Commissioner were… troubling to say the least. He was often his own rules as he went along, meaning that he and his crew sometimes used force when they deemed necessary, and were usually on the wrong side of the law. When Governor Lynell Perry requested that he step down from the role, he then passed it on to his son, Kayce.

When Perry was running for U.S. Senate, John found out that Jamie was going to run for the position of Governor in her stead. Thinking that Jamie would be a bad candidate, John decided to run against him (despite hating the idea of holding that position) and won, meaning that he was now the new Governor of the State of Montana.

John Dutton explained: Wendy Moniz and Kevin Costner as Lynell and John

John Dutton’s relationships explained

John was married to Evelyn Dutton, with whom he had three children; Lee, Beth, and Kayce. Together, they adopted Jamie. Evelyn died in 1997 when her horse got spooked and threw her off, landing on her. John buried Evelyn on the ranch.

Later, John would have a casual relationship with Governor Perry, but it wasn’t explicitly romantic. In fact, John once got angry with Perry for wearing his wife’s old dressing gown. When Perry stepped down, the two saw each other less.

When John Dutton encountered trouble with environmental activists, he met Summer Higgins. Summer, who aggressively disagreed with the land-owning mentality, fell foul of one of Beth’s mind games and ended up in prison. John felt guilty and worked to get her released on parole. He manages to do so, under the condition that she is housebound to the Yellowstone ranch.

The two eventually (sort of) settle their differences, and begin a sexual relationship. Beth, who hates Summer, can’t stand this, and it becomes the source of major disruption in John’s house.

John Dutton explained: Kevin Costner as John Dutton

John Dutton’s health explained

John suffers a couple of major health scares throughout the drama series. For one, we’re told he has cancer, a fact that he’s hiding from his family. He had the tumor removed through surgery, but it appeared as if it had returned again when he started having strange symptoms.

Turns out, however, that he had an ulcer. It ruptured unexpectedly and meant that John had to have emergency surgery from the vet in the back of a van.

For a while, John is okay. All until he is nearly assassinated and killed when he’s shot down in the middle of the road. He lays there, dying, but is rescued by Rip. John is in a coma for a while but eventually comes to. He’s been through a lot, but it would take something major (more major than being shot, we guess), to keep this horse down.

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How old is John Dutton?

By estimations, John Dutton is 64 years old by season 5’s end.

Age is something that becomes a running theme throughout both Yellowstone and Yellowstone: 1923. Both Dutton patriarchs throughout these stories are always aware of their impending aging, and what it means for the ranch and their family.

There you have it — everything you need to know about John Dutton. Like him or love him, you have to admit that he’s one of the coolest characters on the small screen these days. Whether he’s sitting on a horse and waxing lyrical about the nature of Montana (check out our list of the best John Dutton quotes for more on that, or throwing a bottle at someone, we can’t take our eyes off him.

Check out our guides to the other Yellowstone series old and new, with the 6666 release date, 1923 season 2 release date, and Lawmen: Bass Reeves release date. We also have a list of the ten shows like Yellowstone to watch next, as well as all the best Westerns mapped out.

You can also check out our feature on how Dallas ran so Yellowstone could fly, and see what happened when one of our writers had their mind changed by the Yellowstone movie.