Cowboy
Overview
A cowboy is an animal herder
Herder
A herder is a worker who lives a possibly semi-nomadic life, caring for various domestic animals, in places where these animals wander pasture lands....

 who tends cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 on ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

es in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero
Vaquero
The vaquero is a horse-mounted livestock herder of a tradition that originated on the Iberian peninsula. Today the vaquero is still a part of the doma vaquera, the Spanish tradition of working riding...

traditions of northern Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and became a figure of special significance and legend. A subtype, called a wrangler
Wrangler (profession)
In North America, a wrangler is someone employed to handle animals professionally, especially horses, but also other types of animals. Wranglers also handle the horses and other animals during the making of motion pictures...

, specifically tends the horses used to work cattle. In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work for or participate in rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

s.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
A cowboy is an animal herder
Herder
A herder is a worker who lives a possibly semi-nomadic life, caring for various domestic animals, in places where these animals wander pasture lands....

 who tends cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 on ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

es in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero
Vaquero
The vaquero is a horse-mounted livestock herder of a tradition that originated on the Iberian peninsula. Today the vaquero is still a part of the doma vaquera, the Spanish tradition of working riding...

traditions of northern Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and became a figure of special significance and legend. A subtype, called a wrangler
Wrangler (profession)
In North America, a wrangler is someone employed to handle animals professionally, especially horses, but also other types of animals. Wranglers also handle the horses and other animals during the making of motion pictures...

, specifically tends the horses used to work cattle. In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work for or participate in rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

s. Cowgirls, first defined as such in the late 19th century, had a less-well documented historical role, but in the modern world have established the ability to work at virtually identical tasks and obtained considerable respect for their achievements. There are also cattle handlers in many other parts of the world, particularly South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, who perform work similar to the cowboy in their respective nations.

The cowboy has deep historic roots tracing back to Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and the earliest European settlers of the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

. Over the centuries, differences in terrain, climate and the influence of cattle-handling traditions from multiple cultures created several distinct styles of equipment, clothing and animal handling. As the ever-practical cowboy adapted to the modern world, the cowboy's equipment and techniques also adapted to some degree, though many classic traditions are still preserved today.

Etymology and mainstream usage

The English word cowboy has an origin from several earlier terms that referred to both age and to cattle or cattle-tending work.

The word "cowboy" appeared in the English language by 1725. It appears to be a direct English translation of vaquero, a Spanish word for an individual who managed cattle while mounted on horseback. It was derived from vaca, meaning "cow," which came from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word vacca. Another English word for a cowboy, buckaroo, is an Anglicization
Anglicisation
Anglicisation, or anglicization , is the process of converting verbal or written elements of any other language into a form that is more comprehensible to an English speaker, or, more generally, of altering something such that it becomes English in form or character.The term most often refers to...

 of vaquero. At least one linguist has speculated that the word "buckaroo" derives from the Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 word bakara or bakhara, also meaning "heifer" or "young cow", and may have entered Spanish during the centuries of Islamic rule
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

.

Originally, the term may have been intended literally—"a boy who tends cows." By 1849 it had developed its modern sense as an adult cattle handler of the American West. Variations on the word "cowboy" appeared later. "Cowhand" appeared in 1852, and "cowpoke" in 1881, originally restricted to the individuals who prodded cattle with long poles to load them onto railroad cars for shipping. Names for a cowboy in American English include buckaroo, cowpoke, cowhand, and cowpuncher. "Cowboy" is a term common throughout the west and particularly in the Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

 and Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

, "Buckaroo" is used primarily in the Great Basin
Great Basin
The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America and is noted for its arid conditions and Basin and Range topography that varies from the North American low point at Badwater Basin to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than away at the...

 and California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, and "cowpuncher" mostly in Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 and surrounding states.

The word cowboy also had English language roots beyond simply being a translation from Spanish. Originally, the English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 word "cowherd" was used to describe a cattle herder, (similar to "shepherd," a sheep herder) and often referred to a preadolescent or early adolescent boy, who usually worked on foot. (Equestrianism
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

 required skills and an investment in horses and equipment rarely available to or entrusted to a child, though in some cultures boys rode a donkey
Donkey
The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the Equidae or horse family. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African Wild Ass, E...

 while going to and from pasture) This word is very old in the English language, originating prior to the year 1000. In antiquity
Ancient history
Ancient history is the study of the written past from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC...

, herding of sheep, cattle and goats was often the job of minor
Minor (law)
In law, a minor is a person under a certain age — the age of majority — which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood; the age depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is typically 18...

s, and still is a task for young people in various third world
Third World
The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

 cultures.

Because of the time and physical ability needed to develop necessary skills, the cowboy often did began his career as an adolescent, earning wages as soon as he had enough skill to be hired, (often as young as 12 or 13) and who, if not crippled by injury, might handle cattle or horses for the rest of his working life. In the United States, a few women also took on the tasks of ranching and learned the necessary skills, though the "cowgirl" (discussed below) did not become widely recognized or acknowledged until the close of the 19th century. On western ranches today, the working cowboy is usually an adult. Responsibility for herding cattle or other livestock is no longer considered a job suitable for children or early adolescents. However, both boys and girls growing up in a ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

 environment often learn to ride horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s and perform basic ranch skills as soon as they are physically able, usually under adult supervision. Such youths, by their late teens, are often given responsibilities for "cowboy" work on the ranch, and ably perform work that requires a level of maturity and levelheadedness that is not generally expected of their urban peers.

Other historic word uses

The term "cowboy" was used during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 to describe American fighters who opposed the movement for independence. Claudius Smith
Claudius Smith
Claudius Smith was a notorious Loyalist guerrilla leader during the American Revolution. He led a band of irregulars who were known locally as the 'cowboys'....

, an outlaw identified with the Loyalist
Loyalist (American Revolution)
Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men. They were opposed by the Patriots, those who supported the revolution...

 cause, was referred to as the "Cow-boy of the Ramapos" due to his penchant for stealing oxen, cattle and horses from colonists and giving them to the British. In the same period, a number of guerilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 bands operated in Westchester County, which marked the dividing line between the British and American forces. These groups were made up of local farmhands who would ambush convoys and carry out raids on both sides. There were two separate groups: the "skinners" fought for the pro-independence side; the "cowboys" supported the British.

In the Tombstone
Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone is a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. From about 1877 to 1890, the town's mines produced USD $40 to $85 million...

 area in the 1880s, the term "Cowboy" or "cow-boy" was used pejoratively to describe men who had been implicated in various crimes. One loosely organized band was dubbed "The Cowboys," and profited from smuggling cattle, alcohol, and tobacco across the U.S./Mexico border. The San Francisco Examiner wrote in an editorial, "Cowboys [are] the most reckless class of outlaws in that wild country...infinitely worse than the ordinary robber." It became an insult in the area to call someone a "cowboy," as it suggested he was a horse thief, robber, or outlaw. Cattlemen were generally called herders or ranchers. The Cowboys' activities ultimately ended with the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a roughly 30-second gunfight that took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona Territory, of the United States. Outlaw Cowboys Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight, unharmed, but Ike's brother...

 and the resulting Earp Vendetta Ride
Earp vendetta ride
The Earp Vendetta Ride, lasting from March 20 to April 15, 1882, was a manhunt for outlaw Cowboys led by newly appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp. He was searching for men he held responsible for maiming his brother Virgil, the Tombstone Marshal and Deputy U.S. Marshal, and assassinating his...

.

History

The origins of the cowboy tradition come from Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, beginning with the hacienda
Hacienda
Hacienda is a Spanish word for an estate. Some haciendas were plantations, mines, or even business factories. Many haciendas combined these productive activities...

 system of medieval Spain. This style of cattle ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

ing spread throughout much of the Iberian peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 and later, was imported to the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

. Both regions possessed a dry climate with sparse grass, and thus large herds of cattle required vast amounts of land in order to obtain sufficient forage
Forage
Forage is plant material eaten by grazing livestock.Historically the term forage has meant only plants eaten by the animals directly as pasture, crop residue, or immature cereal crops, but it is also used more loosely to include similar plants cut for fodder and carried to the animals, especially...

. The need to cover distances greater than a person on foot could manage gave rise to the development of the horseback-mounted vaquero.

Spanish roots

Various aspects of the Spanish equestrian
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

 tradition can be traced back to Arabic rule in Spain
Al-Andalus
Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to a nation and territorial region also commonly referred to as Moorish Iberia. The name describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims , at various times in the period between 711 and 1492, although the territorial boundaries...

, including Moorish
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 elements such as the use of Oriental-type horses
Oriental horse
The term oriental horse refers to the ancient breeds of horses developed in the Middle East, such as the Arabian, Akhal-Teke, Barb, and the now-extinct Turkoman horse. They tend to be thin-skinned, long-legged, slim in build and more physically refined than other types, but with great endurance...

, the la jineta riding style characterized by a shorter stirrup
Stirrup
A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle by a strap, often called a stirrup leather. Stirrups are usually paired and are used to aid in mounting and as a support while using a riding animal...

, solid-treed saddle
Saddle
A saddle is a supportive structure for a rider or other load, fastened to an animal's back by a girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a horse, but specialized saddles have been created for camels and other creatures...

 and use of spur
Spur
A spur is a metal tool designed to be worn in pairs on the heels of riding boots for the purpose of directing a horse to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine the riding aids and to back up the natural aids . The spur is used in every equestrian discipline...

s, the heavy noseband
Noseband
A noseband is the part of a horse's bridle that encircles the nose and jaw of the horse. In English riding, where the noseband is separately attached to its own headstall or crownpiece, held independently of the bit, it is often called a cavesson or caveson noseband...

 or hackamore
Hackamore
A hackamore is a type of animal headgear which does not have a bit. Instead, it has a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the face, nose, and chin...

, (Arabic šakīma, Spanish jaquima) and other horse-related equipment and techniques. Certain aspects of the Arabic tradition, such as the hackamore, can in turn be traced to roots in ancient Persia.

During the 16th century, the Conquistadors and other Spanish settlers brought their cattle-raising traditions as well as both horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s and domesticated cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 to the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, starting with their arrival in what today is Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. The traditions of Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 were transformed by the geographic, environmental and cultural circumstances of New Spain
New Spain
New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain , was a viceroyalty of the Spanish colonial empire, comprising primarily territories in what was known then as 'América Septentrional' or North America. Its capital was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire...

, which later became Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and the Southwestern United States
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

. In turn, the land and people of the Americas also saw dramatic changes due to Spanish influence.

The arrival of horses was particularly significant, as equines had been extinct in the Americas since the end of the prehistoric ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

. However, horses quickly multiplied in America and became crucial to the success of the Spanish and later settlers from other nations. The earliest horses were originally of Andalusian
Andalusian horse
The Andalusian, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE , is a horse breed developed in the Iberian Peninsula. Its ancestors have been present on the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years. The Andalusian has been recognized as an individual breed since the 15th century, and its conformation...

, Barb
Barb (horse)
Developed on the Barbary Coast of North Africa, the Barb horse is a desert breed with great hardiness and stamina. The Barb generally possesses a fiery temperament and an atypical sport-horse conformation, but nevertheless has influenced modern breeds....

 and Arabian
Arabian horse
The Arabian or Arab horse is a breed of horse that originated on the Arabian Peninsula. With a distinctive head shape and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world. It is also one of the oldest breeds, with archaeological evidence of horses...

 ancestry, but a number of uniquely American horse breeds developed in North and South America through selective breeding and by natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 of animals that escaped to the wild. The Mustang
Mustang (horse)
A Mustang is a free-roaming horse of the North American west that first descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but there is intense debate over terminology...

 and other colonial horse breeds are now called "wild," but in reality are feral horse
Feral horse
A feral horse is a free-roaming horse of domesticated ancestry. As such, a feral horse is not a wild animal in the sense of an animal without domesticated ancestors. However, some populations of feral horses are managed as wildlife, and these horses often are popularly called "wild" horses...

s—descendants of domesticated animals.

Vaqueros

Though popularly considered American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the traditional cowboy began with the Spanish tradition, which evolved further in what today is Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and the Southwestern United States
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

 into the vaquero of northern Mexico and the charro
Charro
Charro is a term referring to a traditional horseman from Mexico, originating in the central-western regions primarily in the state of Jalisco including: Zacatecas, Durango, Guanajuato, Morelos, Puebla...

of the Jalisco
Jalisco
Jalisco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Jalisco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and divided in 125 municipalities and its capital city is Guadalajara.It is one of the more important states...

 and Michoacán
Michoacán
Michoacán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Michoacán de Ocampo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 113 municipalities and its capital city is Morelia...

 regions. While most hacendados (ranch owners) were ethnically Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 criollos
Criollo people
The Criollo class ranked below that of the Iberian Peninsulares, the high-born permanent residence colonists born in Spain. But Criollos were higher status/rank than all other castes—people of mixed descent, Amerindians, and enslaved Africans...

, many early vaqueros were Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 trained to work for the Spanish missions in caring for the mission herds. Vaqueros went north with livestock. In 1598, Don Juan de Oñate sent an expedition across the Rio Grande River into New Mexico, bringing along 7000 head of cattle. From this beginning, vaqueros of mestizo
Mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...

 heritage drove cattle from New Mexico and later Texas to Mexico City. Mexican traditions spread both South and North, influencing equestrian traditions from Argentina to Canada.

Rise of the cowboy

As English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

-speaking traders and settlers expanded westward
Territorial acquisitions of the United States
This is a simplified list of United States territorial acquisitions, beginning with American independence. Note that this list primarily concerns land acquired from other nation-states; the numerous territorial acquisitions from American Indians are not listed here.-1783-1848:*The 1783 Treaty of...

, English and Spanish traditions, language and culture merged to some degree. Before the Mexican-American War in 1848, New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 merchants who traveled by ship to California encountered both hacendados and vaqueros, trading manufactured goods for the hides and tallow produced from vast cattle ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

es. American traders along what later became known as the Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pioneered in 1822 by William Becknell, it served as a vital commercial and military highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880...

 had similar contacts with vaquero life. Starting with these early encounters, the lifestyle and language of the vaquero began a transformation which merged with English cultural traditions and produced what became known in American culture as the "cowboy".

The arrival of English-speaking settlers in Texas began in 1821, while California did not see a large influx of settlers from the United States until after the Mexican-American War. However, in slightly different ways, both areas contributed to the evolution of the iconic American cowboy. Particularly with the arrival of railroads, and an increased demand for beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

 in the wake of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, older traditions combined with the need to drive cattle
Cattle drive
For the 1951 film, see Cattle Drive .A cattle drive is the process of moving a herd of cattle from one place to another, usually moved and herded by cowboys on horses.-Australia:Australia is noted for long drives...

 from the ranches where they were raised to the nearest railhead
Railhead
The word railhead is a railway term with two distinct meanings, depending upon its context.Sometimes, particularly in the context of modern freight terminals, the word is used to denote a terminus of a railway line, especially if the line is not yet finished, or if the terminus interfaces with...

s, often hundreds of miles away.

By the 1880s, the expansion of the cattle industry resulted in a need for additional open range. Thus many ranchers expanded into the northwest, where there were still large tracts of unsettled grassland. Texas cattle were herded north, into the Rocky Mountain west and the Dakotas. The cowboy adapted much of his gear to the colder conditions, and westward movement of the industry also led to intermingling of regional traditions from California to Texas, often with the cowboy taking the most useful elements of each.

Roundups

Large numbers of cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 lived in a semi-feral
Feral
A feral organism is one that has changed from being domesticated to being wild or untamed. In the case of plants it is a movement from cultivated to uncultivated or controlled to volunteer. The introduction of feral animals or plants to their non-native regions, like any introduced species, may...

, or semi-wild state on the open range
Rangeland
Rangelands are vast natural landscapes in the form of grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, wetlands, and deserts. Types of rangelands include tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, desert grasslands and shrublands, woodlands, savannas, chaparrals, steppes, and tundras...

 and were left to graze, mostly untended, for much of the year. In many cases, different ranchers formed "associations" and grazed their cattle together on the same range. In order to determine the ownership of individual animals, they were marked with a distinctive brand
Livestock branding
Livestock branding is a technique for marking livestock so as to identify the owner. Originally, livestock branding only referred to a hot brand for large stock, though the term is now also used to refer to other alternative techniques such as freeze branding...

, applied with a hot iron, usually while the cattle were still young calves
Calf
Calves are the young of domestic cattle. Calves are reared to become adult cattle, or are slaughtered for their meat, called veal.-Terminology:...

. The primary cattle breed seen on the open range was the Longhorn
Texas longhorn (cattle)
The Texas Longhorn is a breed of cattle known for its characteristic horns, which can extend to tip to tip for steers and exceptional cows, and tip to tip for bulls. Horns can have a slight upward turn at their tips or even triple twist. Texas Longhorns are known for their diverse coloring...

, descended from the original Spanish Longhorns imported in the 16th century, though by the late 19th century, other breeds of cattle were also brought west, including the meatier Hereford
Hereford (cattle)
Hereford cattle are a beef cattle breed, widely used both in intemperate areas and temperate areas, mainly for meat production.Originally from Herefordshire, England, United Kingdom, more than five million pedigree Hereford Cattle now exist in over 50 countries...

, and often were crossbred with Longhorns.

In order to find young calves for branding, and to sort out mature animals intended for sale, ranchers would hold a roundup, usually in the spring. A roundup required a number of specialized skills on the part of both cowboys and horses. Individuals who separated cattle from the herd required the highest level of skill and rode specially trained "cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

" horses, trained to follow the movements of cattle, capable of stopping and turning faster than other horses. Once cattle were sorted, most cowboys were required to rope young calves and restrain them to be branded and (in the case of most bull
Bull
Bull usually refers to an uncastrated adult male bovine.Bull may also refer to:-Entertainment:* Bull , an original show on the TNT Network* "Bull" , an episode of television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

 calves) castrated
Castration
Castration is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.-Humans:...

. Occasionally it was also necessary to restrain older cattle for branding or other treatment.

A large number of horses were needed for a roundup. Each cowboy would require three to four fresh horses in the course of a day's work. Horses themselves were also rounded up. It was common practice in the west for young foal
Foal
A foal is an equine, particularly a horse, that is one year old or younger. More specific terms are colt for a male foal and filly for a female foal, but these terms are used until the horse is age three or four. When the foal is nursing from its dam , it may also be called a suckling...

s to be born of tame mares
Mare (horse)
A mare is an adult female horse or other equine.In most cases, a mare is a female horse over the age of three, and a filly is a female horse age three and younger. However, in Thoroughbred horse racing, a mare is defined as a female horse more than four years old; in harness racing a mare is a...

, but allowed to grow up "wild" in a semi-feral state on the open range. There were also "wild" herds, often known as Mustangs
Mustang (horse)
A Mustang is a free-roaming horse of the North American west that first descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but there is intense debate over terminology...

. Both types were rounded up, and the mature animals tamed, a process called horse breaking, or "bronco
Bronco
Bronco, or bronc is a term used in the United States, northern Mexico and Canada to refer to an untrained horse or one that habitually bucks. It may refer to a feral horse that has lived in the wild its entire life, but is also used to refer to domestic horses not yet fully trained to saddle, and...

-busting," (var. "bronc busting") usually performed by cowboys who specialized in training horses. In some cases, extremely brutal methods were used to tame horses, and such animals tended to never be completely reliable. However, other cowboys became aware of the need to treat animals in a more humane fashion and modified their horse training
Horse training
Horse training refers to a variety of practices that teach horses to perform certain behaviors when asked to do so by humans. Horses are trained to be manageable by humans for everyday care as well as for equestrian activities from horse racing to therapeutic horseback riding for people with...

 methods, often re-learning techniques used by the vaqueros, particularly those of the Californio tradition. Horses trained in a gentler fashion were more reliable and useful for a wider variety of tasks.

Informal competition arose between cowboys seeking to test their cattle and horse-handling skills against one another, and thus, from the necessary tasks of the working cowboy, the sport of rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

 developed.

Cattle drives

Prior to the mid-19th century, most ranchers primarily raised cattle for their own needs and to sell surplus meat and hides locally. There was also a limited market for hides, horns, hooves, and tallow
Tallow
Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.In industry,...

 in assorted manufacturing processes. While Texas contained vast herds of stray, free-ranging cattle available for free to anyone who could round them up, prior to 1865, there was little demand for beef. However, at the end of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Philip Danforth Armour
Philip Danforth Armour
Philip Danforth Armour, Sr. was an American businessman who founded Armour and Company, an American meatpacking firm.-Biography:...

 opened a meat packing plant in Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, which became known as Armour and Company
Armour and Company
Armour & Company was an American slaughterhouse and meatpacking company founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1867 by the Armour brothers, led by Philip Danforth Armour. By 1880, the company was Chicago's most important business and helped make the city and its Union Stock Yards the center of the...

. With the expansion of the meat packing industry
Meat packing industry
The meat packing industry handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock...

, the demand for beef increased significantly. By 1866, cattle could be sold to northern markets for as much as $40 per head, making it potentially profitable for cattle, particularly from Texas, to be herded long distances to market.

The first large-scale effort to drive cattle from Texas to the nearest railhead for shipment to Chicago occurred in 1866, when many Texas ranchers banded together to drive their cattle to the closest point that railroad tracks reached, which at that time was in Sedalia, Missouri. However, farmers in eastern Kansas, afraid that Longhorns would transmit cattle fever to local animals as well as trample crops, formed groups that threatened to beat or shoot cattlemen found on their lands. Therefore, the 1866 drive failed to reach the railroad, and the cattle herds were sold for low prices. However, in 1867, a cattle shipping facility was built west of farm country around the railhead at Abilene, Kansas
Abilene, Kansas
Abilene is a city in and the county seat of Dickinson County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 6,844.-History:...

, and became a center of cattle shipping, loading over 36,000 head of cattle that year. The route from Texas to Abilene became known as the Chisholm Trail
Chisholm Trail
The Chisholm Trail was a trail used in the late 19th century to drive cattle overland from ranches in Texas to Kansas railheads. The portion of the trail marked by Jesse Chisholm went from his southern trading post near the Red River, to his northern trading post near Kansas City, Kansas...

, after Jesse Chisholm
Jesse Chisholm
Jesse Chisholm was an Indian trader, guide, and interpreter, born in the Hiwassee region of Tennessee, probably in 1805 or 1806. He is chiefly famous for being the namesake to the Chisholm Trail, which ranchers used to drive their cattle to eastern markets. Chisholm had built a number of trading...

, who marked out the route. It ran through present-day Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

, which then was Indian Territory
Indian Territory
The Indian Territory, also known as the Indian Territories and the Indian Country, was land set aside within the United States for the settlement of American Indians...

. However, in spite of Hollywood portrayals of the west, there were relatively few conflicts with Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

, who usually allowed cattle herds to pass through for a toll of ten cents a head. Later, other trails forked off to different railheads, including those at Dodge City
Dodge City, Kansas
Dodge City is a city in, and the county seat of, Ford County, Kansas, United States. Named after nearby Fort Dodge, the city is famous in American culture for its history as a wild frontier town of the Old West. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 27,340.-History:The first settlement of...

 and Wichita, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas
Wichita is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kansas.As of the 2010 census, the city population was 382,368. Located in south-central Kansas on the Arkansas River, Wichita is the county seat of Sedgwick County and the principal city of the Wichita metropolitan area...

. By 1877, the largest of the cattle-shipping boom towns, Dodge City, Kansas, shipped out 500,000 head of cattle.

Cattle drives had to strike a balance between speed and the weight of the cattle. While cattle could be driven as far as 25 miles in a single day, they would lose so much weight that they would be hard to sell when they reached the end of the trail. Usually they were taken shorter distances each day, allowed periods to rest and graze both at midday and at night. On average, a herd could maintain a healthy weight moving about 15 miles per day. Such a pace meant that it would take as long as two months to travel from a home ranch to a railhead. The Chisholm trail, for example, was 1,000 miles long.

On average, a single herd of cattle on a drive numbered about 3,000 head. To herd the cattle, a crew of at least 10 cowboys was needed, with three horses per cowboy. Cowboys worked in shifts to watch the cattle 24 hours a day, herding them in the proper direction in the daytime and watching them at night to prevent stampede
Stampede
A stampede is an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose....

s and deter theft. The crew also included a cook, who drove a chuck wagon, usually pulled by oxen, and a horse wrangler
Wrangler (profession)
In North America, a wrangler is someone employed to handle animals professionally, especially horses, but also other types of animals. Wranglers also handle the horses and other animals during the making of motion pictures...

 to take charge of the remuda
Remuda
A Remuda is a herd of horses from which ranch hands select their mounts. The word is of Spanish derivation, for "change of horses" and is commonly used in the American West. The person in charge of the remuda is generally known as a wrangler.-Necessity:...

,
or herd of spare horses. The wrangler on a cattle drive was often a very young cowboy or one of lower social status, but the cook was a particularly well-respected member of the crew, as not only was he in charge of the food, he also was in charge of medical supplies and had a working knowledge of practical medicine.

End of the open range

Barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

, an innovation of the 1880s, allowed cattle to be confined to designated areas to prevent overgrazing
Overgrazing
Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed agricultural applications, or by overpopulations of native or non-native wild animals.Overgrazing reduces the...

 of the range. In Texas and surrounding areas, increased population required ranchers to fence off their individual lands. In the north, overgrazing stressed the open range, leading to insufficient winter forage
Forage
Forage is plant material eaten by grazing livestock.Historically the term forage has meant only plants eaten by the animals directly as pasture, crop residue, or immature cereal crops, but it is also used more loosely to include similar plants cut for fodder and carried to the animals, especially...

 for the cattle and starvation, particularly during the harsh winter of 1886–1887, when hundreds of thousands of cattle died across the Northwest, leading to collapse of the cattle industry. By the 1890s, barbed wire fencing was also standard in the northern plains, railroads had expanded to cover most of the nation, and meat packing plants were built closer to major ranching areas, making long cattle drives from Texas to the railheads in Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

 unnecessary. Hence, the age of the open range was gone and large cattle drives
Cattle drives in the United States
Cattle drives were a major economic activity in the American west, particularly between the years 1866-1886, when 20 million cattle were herded from Texas to railheads in Kansas for shipments to stockyards in Chicago and points east...

 were over. Smaller cattle drives continued at least into the 1940s, as ranchers, prior to the development of the modern cattle truck, still needed to herd cattle to local railheads for transport to stockyards
Feedlot
A feedlot or feedyard is a type of animal feeding operation which is used in factory farming for finishing livestock, notably beef cattle, but also swine, horses, sheep, turkeys, chickens or ducks, prior to slaughter. Large beef feedlots are called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations . They...

 and packing plants
Meat packing industry
The meat packing industry handles the slaughtering, processing, packaging, and distribution of animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep and other livestock...

. Meanwhile, ranches multiplied all over the developing West, keeping cowboy employment high, if still low-paid, but also somewhat more settled.

Ethnicity

American cowboys were drawn from multiple sources. By the late 1860s, following the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and the expansion of the cattle industry, former soldiers from both the Union and Confederacy came west, seeking work, as did large numbers of restless white men in general. A significant number of African-American freedmen also were drawn to cowboy life, in part because there was not quite as much discrimination in the west
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 as in other areas of American society at the time. A significant number of Mexicans and American Indians already living in the region also worked as cowboys. Later, particularly after 1890, when American policy promoted "assimilation" of Indian people, some Indian boarding schools also taught ranching skills. Today, some Native Americans in the western United States
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 own cattle and small ranches, and many are still employed as cowboys, especially on ranches located near Indian Reservation
Indian reservation
An American Indian reservation is an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs...

s. The "Indian Cowboy" also became a commonplace sight on the rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

 circuit.

Because cowboys ranked low in the social structure
Social structure
Social structure is a term used in the social sciences to refer to patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. The usage of the term "social structure" has changed over time and may reflect the various levels of analysis...

 of the period, there are no firm figures on the actual proportion of various races. One writer states that cowboys were "… of two classes—those recruited from Texas and other States on the eastern slope; and Mexicans, from the south-western region. …" Census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

 records suggest that about 15% of all cowboys were of African-American ancestry—ranging from about 25% on the trail drives out of Texas, to very few in the northwest. Similarly, cowboys of Mexican descent also averaged about 15% of the total, but were more common in Texas and the southwest. Other estimates suggest that in the late 19th century, one out of every three cowboys was a Mexican vaquero, and 20% may have been African-American.

Regardless of ethnicity, most cowboys came from lower social classes and the pay was poor. The average cowboy earned approximately a dollar a day, plus food, and, when near the home ranch, a bed in the bunkhouse
Bunkhouse
A bunkhouse is a hostel or barracks-like building that historically was used to house working cowboys on ranches in North America. As most cowboys were young single men, the standard bunkhouse was a large open room with narrow beds or cots for each individual and little privacy...

, usually a barracks
Barracks
Barracks are specialised buildings for permanent military accommodation; the word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes. Their main object is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training and esprit de corps. They were sometimes called...

-like building with a single open room.

Social world

Over time, the cowboys of the American West developed a personal culture of their own, a blend of frontier
Frontier
A frontier is a political and geographical term referring to areas near or beyond a boundary. 'Frontier' was absorbed into English from French in the 15th century, with the meaning "borderland"--the region of a country that fronts on another country .The use of "frontier" to mean "a region at the...

 and Victorian
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

 values that even retained vestiges of chivalry
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

. Such hazardous work in isolated conditions also bred a tradition of self-dependence and individualism
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

, with great value put on personal honesty, exemplified in songs and poetry
Cowboy poetry
Cowboy poetry cp is a form of poetry which grew out of a tradition of extemporaneous composition carried on by workers on cattle drives and ranches. After a day of work, cowboys would gather around a campfire and entertain one another with tall tales and folk songs...

. The cowboy often worked in an all-male environment, particularly on cattle drives
Cattle drives in the United States
Cattle drives were a major economic activity in the American west, particularly between the years 1866-1886, when 20 million cattle were herded from Texas to railheads in Kansas for shipments to stockyards in Chicago and points east...

, and in the frontier west, men often significantly outnumbered women.

However, some men were also drawn to the frontier because they were attracted to men. Other times, in a region where men outnumbered women, even social events normally attended by both sexes were at times all male, and men could be found partnering up with one another for dances. Homosexual acts between young, unmarried men occurred, but cowboys culture itself was and remains deeply homophobic. Though anti-sodomy laws were common in the Old West, they often were only selectively enforced.

Development of the modern cowboy image

The traditions of the working cowboy were further etched into the minds of the general public with the development of Wild West Shows in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which showcased and romanticized the life of both cowboys and Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

. Beginning in the 1920s and continuing to the present day, Western movies popularized the cowboy lifestyle but also formed persistent stereotype
Stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

s, both positive and negative. In some cases, the cowboy and the violent gunslinger
Gunslinger
Gunfighter, also gunslinger , is a 20th century word, used in cinema or literature, referring to men in the American Old West who had gained a reputation as being dangerous with a gun...

 are often associated with one another. On the other hand, some actors who portrayed cowboys promoted positive values, such as the "cowboy code" of Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Orvon Grover Autry , better known as Gene Autry, was an American performer who gained fame as The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television for more than three decades beginning in the 1930s...

, that encouraged honorable behavior, respect and patriotism.

Likewise, cowboys in movies were often shown fighting with American Indians
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

. However, the reality was that, while cowboys were armed against both predators and human thieves, and often used their guns to run off people of any race who attempted to steal, or rustle
Cattle raiding
Cattle raiding is the act of stealing cattle.In Australia, such stealing is often referred to as duffing, and the person as a duffer...

cattle, nearly all actual armed conflicts occurred between Indian people and cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 units of the U.S. Army.

In reality, working ranch hands past and present had very little time for anything other than the constant, hard work involved in maintaining a ranch.

Cowgirls

The history of women in the west, and women who worked on cattle ranches in particular, is not as well documented as that of men. However, institutions such as the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is a museum and association which honors women of the American West who have displayed courage or spirit and who have distinguished themselves while exemplifying the pioneer spirit...

 have made significant efforts in recent years to gather and document the contributions of women.

There are few records mentioning girls or women working to drive cattle up the cattle trails of the Old West. However women did considerable ranch work, and in some cases (especially when the men went to war or on long cattle drives) ran them. There is little doubt that women, particularly the wives and daughters of men who owned small ranches and could not afford to hire large numbers of outside laborers, worked side by side with men and thus needed to ride horses and be able to perform related tasks. The largely undocumented contributions of women to the west were acknowledged in law; the western states led the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in granting women the right to vote, beginning with Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

 in 1869. Early photographers such as Evelyn Cameron
Evelyn Cameron
Evelyn Cameron was a Terry, Montana based photographer. British-born Cameron, and her naturalist husband Ewen, moved to Terry in the 19th century...

 documented the life of working ranch women and cowgirls during the late 19th and early 20th century.

While impractical for everyday work, the sidesaddle
Sidesaddle
Sidesaddle riding is a form of Equestrianism that uses a type of saddle which allows a rider to sit aside rather than astride a horse, mule or pony. Sitting aside dates back to antiquity and developed in European countries in the Middle Ages as a way for women in skirts to ride a horse in a modest...

 was a tool that gave women the ability to ride horses in "respectable" public settings instead of being left on foot or confined to horse-drawn vehicle
Horse-drawn vehicle
A horse-drawn vehicle is a mechanized piece of equipment pulled by one horse or by a team of horses. These vehicles typically had two or four wheels and were used to carry passengers and/or a load...

s. Following the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight, also known as Charlie Goodnight , was a cattle rancher in the American West, perhaps the best known rancher in Texas. He is sometimes known as the "father of the Texas Panhandle." Essayist and historian J...

 modified the traditional English sidesaddle, creating a western-styled design. The traditional charras of Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 preserve a similar tradition and ride sidesaddles today in charreada
Charreada
The charreada or charrería is a competitive event similar to rodeo and was developed from animal husbandry practices used on the haciendas of Old Mexico. The sport has been described as "living history," or as an art form drawn the demands of working life...

exhibitions on both sides of the border.

It wasn't until the advent of Wild West Shows that "cowgirls" came into their own. These adult women were skilled performers, demonstrating riding, expert marksmanship, and trick roping that entertained audiences around the world. Women such as Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley , born Phoebe Ann Mosey, was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Oakley's amazing talent and timely rise to fame led to a starring role in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, which propelled her to become the first American female superstar.Oakley's most famous trick is perhaps...

 became household names. By 1900, skirts split for riding astride became popular, and allowed women to compete with the men without scandalizing Victorian Era audiences by wearing men's clothing or, worse yet, bloomers
Bloomers (clothing)
Bloomers is a word which has been applied to several types of divided women's garments for the lower body at various times.-Fashion bloomers :...

. In the movies that followed from the early 20th century on, cowgirls expanded their roles in the popular culture and movie designers developed attractive clothing suitable for riding Western saddles.

Independently of the entertainment industry, the growth of rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

 brought about the rodeo cowgirl. In the early Wild West shows and rodeos, women competed in all events, sometimes against other women, sometimes with the men. Cowgirls such as Fannie Sperry Steele
Fannie Sperry Steele
Fannie Sperry Steele , born Fannie Steele, was an award-winning bronc rider and rodeo performer from Montana, one of the first women inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame, and the first Montana native in the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame....

 rode the same "rough stock" and took the same risks as the men (and all while wearing a heavy split skirt that was more encumbering than men's trousers) and competed at major rodeos such as the Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The ten-day event, which bills itself as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world's largest rodeos, a parade, midway,...

 and Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Rodeo competition for women changed in the 1920s due to several factors. After 1925, when Eastern promoters started staging indoor rodeos in places like Madison Square Garden. Women were generally excluded from the men's events and many of the women's events were dropped. Also, the public had difficulties with seeing women seriously injured or killed, and in particular, the death of Bonnie McCarroll
Bonnie McCarroll
Bonnie McCarroll, born Mary Ellen "Dot" Treadwell , was a champion rodeo performer and bronc rider most remembered for her tragic death at the Pendleton Round-up in Pendleton, Oregon. She also excelled in steer riding, bulldogging, and automobile jumping...

 at the 1929 Pendleton Round-Up
Pendleton Round-Up
The Pendleton Round-Up is a rodeo held in Pendleton, Oregon, United States, during the second full week of September each year, since 1910. The rodeo brings roughly 50,000 people every year to the city of Pendleton...

 led to the elimination of women's bronc riding from rodeo competition.

In today's rodeos, men and women compete equally together only in the event of team roping
Team roping
Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer and two mounted riders. The first roper is referred to as the "header," the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around...

, though technically women now could enter other open events. There also are all-women rodeos where women compete in bronc riding
Bronc riding
Bronc riding, either saddle bronc or bareback bronc competition, is a rodeo event that involves a rodeo participant riding on a horse , that attempts to throw or buck off the rider...

, bull riding
Bull riding
Bull riding refers to rodeo sports that involve a rider getting on a large bull and attempting to stay mounted while the animal attempts to buck off the rider....

 and all other traditional rodeo events. However, in open rodeos, cowgirls primarily compete in the timed riding events such as barrel racing
Barrel racing
Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. Though both boys and girls compete at the youth level and men compete in some amateur venues, in collegiate and professional ranks, it is primarily a rodeo...

, and most professional rodeos do not offer as many women's events as men's events.

Boys and girls are more apt to compete against one another in all events in high-school rodeos as well as O-Mok-See
Gymkhana (equestrian)
Gymkhana is a term used in the United Kingdom, east coast of the United States, and other English-speaking nations to describe an equestrian event consisting of speed pattern racing and timed games for riders on horses...

 competition, where even boys can be seen in traditionally "women's" events such as barrel racing. Outside of the rodeo world, women compete equally with men in nearly all other equestrian
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

 events, including the Olympics
Equestrian at the Summer Olympics
Equestrianism made its Summer Olympics debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. It disappeared until 1912, but has appeared at every Summer Olympic Games since. The current Olympic equestrian disciplines are Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping...

, and western riding
Western riding
Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West...

 events such as cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

, reining
Reining
Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits...

, and endurance riding
Endurance riding
Endurance riding is an equestrian sport based on controlled long-distance races. It is one of the international competitions recognized by the FEI. There are endurance rides worldwide....

.
Today's working cowgirls generally use clothing, tools and equipment indistinguishable from that of men, other than in color and design, usually preferring a flashier look in competition. Sidesaddles are only seen in exhibitions and a limited number of specialty horse show
Horse show
A Horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and...

 classes. A modern working cowgirl wears jeans, close-fitting shirts, boots, hat, and when needed, chaps and gloves. If working on the ranch, they perform the same chores as cowboys and dress to suit the situation.

Regional traditions within the United States

Geography, climate and cultural traditions caused differences to develop in cattle-handling methods and equipment from one part of the United States to another. In the modern world, remnants of two major and distinct cowboy traditions remain, known today as the "Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

" tradition and the "Spanish", "Vaquero", or "California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

" tradition. Less well-known but equally distinct traditions also developed in Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

 and Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

. Today, the various regional cowboy tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

s have merged to some extent, though a few regional differences in equipment and riding style still remain, and some individuals choose to deliberately preserve the more time-consuming but highly skilled techniques of the pure vaquero or "buckaroo" tradition. The popular "horse whisperer" style of natural horsemanship
Natural horsemanship
Natural horsemanship is the philosophy of working with horses by appealing to their instincts and herd instincts. It involves communication techniques derived from wild horse observation in order to build a partnership that closely resembles the relationships that exist between horses.- Basic ideas...

 was originally developed by practitioners who were predominantly from California and the Northwestern states, clearly combining the attitudes and philosophy of the California vaquero with the equipment and outward look of the Texas cowboy.

California tradition

The vaquero, the Spanish or Mexican cowboy who worked with young, untrained horses, arrived in the 18th century and flourished in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and bordering territories during the Spanish Colonial period. Settlers from the United States did not enter California until after the Mexican-American War, and most early settlers were miners rather than livestock ranchers, leaving livestock-raising largely to the Spanish and Mexican people who chose to remain in California. The California vaquero or buckaroo, unlike the Texas cowboy, was considered a highly-skilled worker, who usually stayed on the same ranch where he was born or had grown up and raised his own family there. In addition, the geography and climate of much of California was dramatically different from that of Texas, allowing more intensive grazing with less open range, plus cattle in California were marketed primarily at a regional level, without the need (nor, until much later, even the logistical possibility) to be driven hundreds of miles to railroad lines. Thus, a horse- and livestock-handling culture remained in California and the Pacific Northwest that retained a stronger direct Spanish influence than that of Texas.

Cowboys of this tradition were dubbed buckaroos by English-speaking settlers. The term officially appeared in American English in 1889 and is believed to have originated as an anglicized version of vaquero, though there is a folk etymology that the term derived from "bucking
Bucking
Bucking is a movement performed by a horse or bull in which the animal lowers his head and raises his hindquarters into the air, usually while kicking out with his hind legs. If powerful, it may unseat the rider enough so that he falls off....

", a behavior seen in some young or fresh horses. The words "buckaroo" and Vaquero are still used on occasion in the Great Basin
Great Basin
The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America and is noted for its arid conditions and Basin and Range topography that varies from the North American low point at Badwater Basin to the highest point of the contiguous United States, less than away at the...

, parts of California and, less often, in the Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region in northwestern North America, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Definitions of the region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common concept of the...

.

Texas tradition

In the early 19th century, the Spanish Crown, and later, independent Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, offered empresario grants
Empresario
An empresario was a person who, in the early years of the settlement of Texas, had been granted the right to settle on Mexican land in exchange for recruiting and taking responsibility for new settlers. The word is Spanish for entrepreneur.- Background :...

 in what would later be Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 to non-citizens, such as settlers from the United States. In 1821, Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin
Stephen Fuller Austin was born in Virginia and raised in southeastern Missouri. He was known as the Father of Texas, led the second, but first legal and ultimately successful colonization of the region by bringing 300 families from the United States. The capital of Texas, Austin in Travis County,...

 and his East Coast comrades became the first Anglo-Saxon community speaking Spanish. Following Texas independence
Texas Revolution
The Texas Revolution or Texas War of Independence was an armed conflict between Mexico and settlers in the Texas portion of the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas. The war lasted from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836...

 in 1836, even more Americans immigrated into the empresario ranching areas of Texas. Here the settlers were strongly influenced by the Mexican vaquero culture, borrowing vocabulary
Vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

 and attire from their counterparts, but also retaining some of the livestock-handling traditions and culture of the Eastern United States and Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. The Texas cowboy was typically a bachelor who hired on with different outfits from season to season.

Following the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, vaquero culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 diffused eastward and northward, combining with the cow herding traditions of the eastern United States that evolved as settlers moved west. Other influences developed out of Texas as cattle trails were created to meet up with the railroad lines of Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

 and Nebraska
Nebraska
Nebraska is a state on the Great Plains of the Midwestern United States. The state's capital is Lincoln and its largest city is Omaha, on the Missouri River....

, in addition to expanding ranching opportunities in the Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

 and Rocky Mountain Front
Rocky Mountain Front
The Rocky Mountain Front is an area extending over 100 miles from the central regions of the U.S. state of Montana to southern Alberta, Canada. Here, the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains and Canadian Prairie in an abrupt elevation rise of between 4,000 to 5,000 feet...

, east of the Continental Divide
Continental Divide
The Continental Divide of the Americas, or merely the Continental Gulf of Division or Great Divide, is the name given to the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas that separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those river systems that drain...

.

Thus, the Texas cowboy tradition arose from a combination of cultural influences, in addition to the need for adaptation to the geography and climate of west Texas and the need to conduct long cattle drives to get animals to market.

Florida Cowhunter or "Cracker cowboy"

The Florida "cowhunter" or "cracker
Florida cracker
Florida cracker refers to original colonial-era English and American pioneer settlers of what is now the U.S. state of Florida, and their descendants. The first Florida crackers arrived in 1763 when Spain traded Florida to Great Britain...

 cowboy" of the 19th and early 20th centuries was distinct from the Texas and California traditions. Florida cowboys did not use lasso
Lasso
A lasso , also referred to as a lariat, riata, or reata , is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. It is a well-known tool of the American cowboy. The word is also a verb; to lasso is to successfully throw the loop of rope around something...

s to herd or capture cattle. Their primary tools were bullwhip
Bullwhip
A bullwhip is a single-tailed whip, usually made of braided leather, which was originally used as a tool for working with livestock.Bullwhips are pastoral tools, traditionally used to control livestock in open country...

s and dogs. Since the Florida cowhunter did not need a saddle horn for anchoring a lariat
Lasso
A lasso , also referred to as a lariat, riata, or reata , is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. It is a well-known tool of the American cowboy. The word is also a verb; to lasso is to successfully throw the loop of rope around something...

, many did not use Western saddle
Western saddle
Western saddles are used for western riding and are the saddles used on working horses on cattle ranches throughout the United States, particularly in the west. They are the "cowboy" saddles familiar to movie viewers, rodeo fans, and those who have gone on trail rides at guest ranches...

s, instead using a McClellan saddle
McClellan saddle
The McClellan saddle was a riding saddle designed by George B. McClellan, a career Army officer in the U.S. Army, after his tour of Europe as the member of a military commission charged with studying the latest developments in engineer and cavalry forces including field equipment. Based on his...

. While some individuals wore boots that reached above the knees for protection from snake
Snake
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...

s, others wore brogans. They usually wore inexpensive wool or straw hats, and used ponchos for protection from rain.

Cattle and horses were introduced into Florida late in the 16th century. Florida cattle and horses were small. The "cracker cow", also known as the "native cow", or "scrub cow" averaged about 600 pounds, had large horns and large feet. The cracker cow type persists today in two rare breeds: Florida Cracker cattle
Florida Cracker cattle
The Florida Cracker is a breed of cattle developed in the state of Florida, and named for the Florida Cracker culture in which it was kept. Also known as the Florida Scrub or just as the Cracker cow, these cattle are one of the criollo-type breeds originally brought to the Southern U.S. by the...

 and Pineywoods cattle. The Florida Cracker Horse
Florida Cracker Horse
The Florida Cracker Horse is a breed of horse from Florida in the United States. It is genetically and physically similar to many other Spanish-style horses, especially those from the Spanish Colonial Horse group. The Florida Cracker is a gaited breed known for its agility and speed...

 descended from smaller Spanish horses of Barb
Barb (horse)
Developed on the Barbary Coast of North Africa, the Barb horse is a desert breed with great hardiness and stamina. The Barb generally possesses a fiery temperament and an atypical sport-horse conformation, but nevertheless has influenced modern breeds....

, Sorraia
Sorraia
The Sorraia is a rare breed of horse indigenous to the portion of the Iberian peninsula known today as Portugal. The Sorraia is known for its primitive features, including a convex profile and dun coloring with primitive markings...

, and Spanish Jennet
Jennet
A Jennet or Spanish Jennet was a small Spanish horse. It was noted for a smooth naturally ambling gait, compact and well-muscled build, and a good disposition...

 breeding, but adapted further through natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 to the environment of the region.

Throughout the 17th century, cattle ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

es owned by Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 officials and missions
Mission (station)
A religious mission or mission station is a location for missionary work.While primarily a Christian term, the concept of the religious "mission" is also used prominently by the Church of Scientology and their Scientology Missions International....

 operated in northern Florida to supply the Spanish garrison in St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is a city in the northeast section of Florida and the county seat of St. Johns County, Florida, United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the continental United...

 and markets in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

. These ranches brought in some vaqueros from Spain, but many of the workers were Timucua
Timucua
The Timucua were a Native American people who lived in Northeast and North Central Florida and southeast Georgia. They were the largest indigenous group in that area and consisted of about 35 chiefdoms, many leading thousands of people. The various groups of Timucua spoke several dialects of the...

 Indians. Diseases and Spanish suppression of rebellions severely reduced the Timucua population. By the beginning of the 18th century, raids by soldiers from the Province of Carolina
Province of Carolina
The Province of Carolina, originally chartered in 1629, was an English and later British colony of North America. Because the original Heath charter was unrealized and was ruled invalid, a new charter was issued to a group of eight English noblemen, the Lords Proprietors, in 1663...

 and their Indian allies reduced the Timucuas to a remnant and ended the Spanish ranching era.

In the 18th century, Creek
Creek people
The Muscogee , also known as the Creek or Creeks, are a Native American people traditionally from the southeastern United States. Mvskoke is their name in traditional spelling. The modern Muscogee live primarily in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida...

, Seminole
Seminole
The Seminole are a Native American people originally of Florida, who now reside primarily in that state and Oklahoma. The Seminole nation emerged in a process of ethnogenesis out of groups of Native Americans, most significantly Creeks from what is now Georgia and Alabama, who settled in Florida in...

, and other Indian people moved into the former Timucua areas and started herding the cattle left from the Spanish ranches. In the 19th century, most tribes in the area were dispossessed of their land and cattle and pushed south or west by white settlers and the United States government. By the middle of the 19th century white ranchers were running large herds of cattle on the extensive open range of central and southern Florida. The hides and meat from Florida cattle became such a critical supply item for the Confederacy
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 that a "Cow Cavalry" was organized to round up and protect the herds from Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 raiders. After the Civil War, Florida cattle were periodically driven to ports on the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

, such as Punta Rassa near Fort Myers, Florida, and shipped to market in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

.

Hawaiian Paniolo

The Hawaiian
Native Hawaiians
Native Hawaiians refers to the indigenous Polynesian people of the Hawaiian Islands or their descendants. Native Hawaiians trace their ancestry back to the original Polynesian settlers of Hawaii.According to the U.S...

 cowboy, the paniolo, is also a direct descendant of the vaquero of California and Mexico. Experts in Hawaiian etymology believe "Paniolo" is a Hawaiianized pronunciation of español. (The Hawaiian language
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

 has no /s/ sound, and all syllable
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

s and words must end in a vowel.) Paniolo, like cowboys on the mainland of North America, learned their skills from Mexican vaqueros.

By the early 19th century, Capt. George Vancouver's
George Vancouver
Captain George Vancouver RN was an English officer of the British Royal Navy, best known for his 1791-95 expedition, which explored and charted North America's northwestern Pacific Coast regions, including the coasts of contemporary Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon...

 gift of cattle to Pai`ea Kamehameha, monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, had multiplied astonishingly, and were wreaking havoc throughout the countryside. About 1812, John Parker, a sailor who had jumped ship and settled in the islands, received permission from Kamehameha to capture the wild cattle and develop a beef industry.

The Hawaiian style of ranching originally included capturing wild cattle by driving them into pits dug in the forest floor. Once tamed somewhat by hunger and thirst, they were hauled out up a steep ramp, and tied by their horns to the horns of a tame, older steer (or ox
Ox
An ox , also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals more tractable...

) that knew where the paddock
Pen (enclosure)
A pen is an enclosure for holding livestock. The term describes multiple types of enclosures that may confine one or many animals. Construction and terminology varies depending on region of the world, purpose, animal species to be confined, local materials used, and cultural tradition...

 with food and water was located. The industry grew slowly under the reign of Kamehameha's son Liholiho (Kamehameha II
Kamehameha II
Kamehameha II was the second king of the Kingdom of Hawaii. His birth name was Liholiho and full name was Kalaninui kua Liholiho i ke kapu Iolani...

).

Later, Liholiho's brother, Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III
Kamehameha III
Kamehameha III was the King of Hawaii from 1825 to 1854. His full Hawaiian name was Keaweaweula Kiwalao Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa and then lengthened to Keaweaweula Kiwalao Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa Kalani Waiakua Kalanikau Iokikilo Kiwalao i ke kapu Kamehameha when he ascended the throne.Under his...

), visited California, then still a part of Mexico. He was impressed with the skill of the Mexican vaqueros, and invited several to Hawai`i in 1832 to teach the Hawaiian people how to work cattle.

Even today, traditional paniolo dress, as well as certain styles of Hawaiian formal attire, reflect the Spanish heritage of the vaquero. The traditional Hawaiian saddle, the noho lio, and many other tools of the cowboy's trade have a distinctly Mexican/Spanish look and many Hawaiian ranching families still carry the names of the vaqueros who married Hawaiian women and made Hawai`i their home.

Other

Montauk, New York
Montauk, New York
Montauk [ˈmɒntɒk] is a census-designated place that roughly corresponds to the hamlet with the same name located in the town of East Hampton in Suffolk County, New York, United States on the South Shore of Long Island. As of the United States 2000 Census, the CDP population was 3,851 as of 2000...

, on Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

 makes a somewhat debatable claim of having the oldest cattle operation in what today is the United States, having run cattle in the area since European settlers purchased land from the Indian people
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 of the area in 1643. Although there were substantial numbers of cattle on Long Island, as well as the need to herd them to and from common grazing lands on a seasonal basis, no consistent "cowboy" tradition developed amongst the cattle handlers of Long Island, who actually lived with their families in houses built on the pasture grounds. The only actual "cattle drives" held on Long Island consisted of one drive in 1776, when the Island's cattle were moved in a failed attempt to prevent them from being captured by the British during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

, and three or four drives in the late 1930s, when area cattle were herded down Montauk Highway to pasture ground near Deep Hollow Ranch.

On the Eastern Shore of Virginia
Eastern Shore of Virginia
The Eastern Shore of Virginia consists of two counties on the Atlantic coast of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. The region is part of the Delmarva Peninsula and is separated from the rest of Virginia by the Chesapeake Bay. Its population was 45,553 as of 2010...

, the "Salt Water Cowboys" are known for rounding up the feral
Feral horse
A feral horse is a free-roaming horse of domesticated ancestry. As such, a feral horse is not a wild animal in the sense of an animal without domesticated ancestors. However, some populations of feral horses are managed as wildlife, and these horses often are popularly called "wild" horses...

 Chincoteague Ponies
Chincoteague Pony
The Chincoteague Pony, also known as the Assateague horse, is a breed of pony that developed and lives in a feral condition on Assateague Island in the United States states of Virginia and Maryland. The breed was made famous by the Misty of Chincoteague series written by Marguerite Henry starting...

 from Assateague Island
Assateague Island
Assateague Island is a long barrier island located off the eastern coast of Maryland and Virginia. It is best known for its herds of feral horses, pristine beaches, and the Assateague Lighthouse. The island also contains numerous marshes, bays and coves, including Toms Cove...

 and driving them across Assateague Channel
Assateague Channel
Assateague Channel is a channel on the Eastern Shore of Virginia between Chincoteague Island and Assateague Island. The Assateague Channel connects to Assateague Bay to the northeast and Chincoteague Inlet to the southwest.-Annual Pony Swim:...

 into pens on Chincoteague Island
Chincoteague, Virginia
Chincoteague is a town on Chincoteague Island in Accomack County, Virginia, United States. The population was 4,317 at the 2000 census. The town is perhaps best known for the Chincoteague Ponies, although these are not actually on the island of Chincoteague but on nearby Assateague Island...

 during the annual Pony Penning
Pony Penning
Pony Penning is an annual event held in Chincoteague, Virginia on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department conducts the event and it consists of a Wild Pony Swim on Wednesday and a Pony Auction on Thursday...

.

Canada

Ranching in Canada has traditionally been dominated by one province, Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

. The most successful early settlers of the province were the ranchers, who found Alberta's foothills
Foothills
Foothills are geographically defined as gradual increases in elevation at the base of a mountain range. They are a transition zone between plains and low relief hills to the adjacent topographically high mountains.-Examples:...

 to be ideal for raising cattle. Most of Alberta's ranchers were English
English Canadian
An English Canadian is a Canadian of English ancestry; it is used primarily in contrast with French Canadian. Canada is an officially bilingual state, with English and French official language communities. Immigrant cultural groups ostensibly integrate into one or both of these communities, but...

 settlers, but cowboys such as John Ware
John Ware
John Ware was an African-American and later African-Canadian cowboy, best remembered for his ability to ride and train horses and for bringing the first cattle to southern Alberta in 1882, helping to create that province's important ranching industry.Ware was born into slavery in South Carolina...

—who brought the first cattle into the province in 1876—were American. American style open range dryland ranching began to dominate southern Alberta
Southern Alberta
Southern Alberta is a region located in the Canadian province of Alberta. As of the year 2004, the region's population was approximately 272,017. The primary cities are Lethbridge and Medicine Hat...

 (and, to a lesser extent, southwestern Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan is a prairie province in Canada, which has an area of . Saskatchewan is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota....

) by the 1880s. The nearby city of Calgary
Calgary
Calgary is a city in the Province of Alberta, Canada. It is located in the south of the province, in an area of foothills and prairie, approximately east of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies...

 became the centre of the Canadian cattle industry, earning it the nickname "Cowtown". The cattle industry is still extremely important to Alberta, and cattle outnumber people in the province. While cattle ranches defined by barbed wire fences replaced the open range just as they did in the US, the cowboy influence lives on. Canada's first rodeo, the Raymond Stampede
Raymond Stampede
The Raymond Stampede is an annual rodeo that is held in the town of Raymond, Alberta, Canada every 1 July. It is notable for being Alberta's oldest and Canada's second oldest rodeo event, having been instituted a full decade before the world-famous Calgary Stampede.The Stampede was first held in...

, was established in 1902. In 1912, the Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The ten-day event, which bills itself as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world's largest rodeos, a parade, midway,...

 began, and today it is the world’s richest cash rodeo. Each year, Calgary’s northern rival Edmonton
Edmonton
Edmonton is the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta and is the province's second-largest city. Edmonton is located on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Capital Region, which is surrounded by the central region of the province.The city and its census...

, Alberta stages the Canadian Finals Rodeo
Canadian Finals Rodeo
The Canadian Finals Rodeo is the national championship rodeo in Canada. The CFR takes place in November and is the final event of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association season...

, and dozens of regional rodeos are held through the province.

Outside North America

In addition to the original Mexican vaquero, the Mexican charro
Charro
Charro is a term referring to a traditional horseman from Mexico, originating in the central-western regions primarily in the state of Jalisco including: Zacatecas, Durango, Guanajuato, Morelos, Puebla...

, the cowboy, and the Hawaiian paniolo, the Spanish also exported their horsemanship and knowledge of cattle ranching to the gaucho
Gaucho
Gaucho is a term commonly used to describe residents of the South American pampas, chacos, or Patagonian grasslands, found principally in parts of Argentina, Uruguay, Southern Chile, and Southern Brazil...

of Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

, Paraguay
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

 and (with the spelling gaúcho) southern Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, the chalan in Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

, the llanero
Llanero
A llanero is a Venezuelan or Colombian herder. The name is taken from the Llanos grasslands occupying western Venezuela and eastern Colombia. The Llanero were originally part Spanish and Indian and have a strong culture including a distinctive form of music.During the wars of independence,...

of Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

, and the huaso
Huaso
A huaso is a Chilean countryman and skilled horseman, similar to the Argentinian, Rio Grande do Sul's or Uruguayan gaucho, the American cowboy, the Australian stockman, and Mexican vaquero and charro. A female huaso is called a huasa, although the term china is far more commonly used for his wife...

of Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

.

In Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, where ranches are known as stations
Station (Australian agriculture)
Station is the term for a large Australian landholding used for livestock production. It corresponds to the North American term ranch or South American estancia...

, cowboys are known as stockmen and ringers, (jackaroos and jillaroos who also do stockwork are trainee overseers and property managers). The Australian droving tradition was influenced by Americans in the 19th century, and as well as practices imported directly from Spain. The adaptation of both of these traditions to local needs created a unique Australian tradition, which also was strongly influenced by Australian indigenous people
Australian Aborigines
Australian Aborigines , also called Aboriginal Australians, from the latin ab originem , are people who are indigenous to most of the Australian continentthat is, to mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania...

, whose knowledge played a key role in the success of cattle ranching in Australia's climate.

The idea of horse riders
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

 who guard herds of cattle, sheep or horses is common wherever wide, open land for grazing exists. In the French Camargue
Camargue
The Camargue is the region located south of Arles, France, between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhône River delta. The eastern arm is called the Grand Rhône; the western one is the Petit Rhône....

, riders called "gardian
Gardian
A gardian is a mounted cattle herdsman in the Camargue delta in Provence, southern France. The work is akin to that of the charro or cowboy....

s" herd cattle and horses. In Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, csikós
Csikos
The csikos, Hungarian: csikós, is the mounted horse-herdsman of Hungary. The csikos tradition is closely associated with the Hungarian puszta, in recent times particularly in the environs of Debrecen and Hortobágy, and in the Hortobágy National Park...

 guard horses and gulyás tend to cattle. The herders in the region of Maremma
Maremma
The Maremma is a vast area in Italy bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea, consisting of part of south-western Tuscany - Maremma Livornese and Maremma Grossetana , and part of northern Lazio - Maremma Laziale .The poet Dante Alighieri in his Divina Commedia places the...

, in Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

 (Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

) are called buttero
Buttero
A buttero is a shepherd or cowboy in the region of Maremma, in Tuscany in the Northern Latium and in the Pontine Marshes. The buttero habitually rides the horse typical of the Maremma, a Maremmano, and tends livestock, especially cattle and sheep. The characteristic saddle is called a bardella...

s. The Asturian
Asturian people
The Asturians are one of the nationalisms of Spain, issuing from the historical country of the Principality of Asturias. They have Celtiberian heritage, related to its historical and cultural links with neighbouring Galicia, as well as Visigothic cultural influences most notably found in the...

 pastoral population is referred to as Vaqueiros de alzada
Vaqueiros de alzada
The Vaqueiros d'alzada were a northern Spanish nomadic people in the mountains of León and Asturias, who practiced transhumance, i.e...

.

Modern working cowboys

On the ranch, the cowboy is responsible for feeding the livestock, branding
Livestock branding
Livestock branding is a technique for marking livestock so as to identify the owner. Originally, livestock branding only referred to a hot brand for large stock, though the term is now also used to refer to other alternative techniques such as freeze branding...

 and earmarking cattle (horses also are branded on many ranches), plus tending to animal injuries and other needs. The working cowboy usually is in charge of a small group or "string" of horses and is required to routinely patrol the rangeland in all weather conditions checking for damaged fences, evidence of predation, water problems, and any other issue of concern.

They also move the livestock to different pasture locations, or herd them into corrals and onto trucks for transport. In addition, cowboys may do many other jobs, depending on the size of the "outfit" or ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

, the terrain
Terrain
Terrain, or land relief, is the vertical and horizontal dimension of land surface. When relief is described underwater, the term bathymetry is used...

, and the number of livestock. On a smaller ranch with fewer cowboys—often just family members, cowboys are generalists who perform many all-around tasks; they repair fences, maintain ranch equipment, and perform other odd jobs. On a very large ranch (a "big outfit"), with many employees, cowboys are able to specialize on tasks solely related to cattle and horses. Cowboys who train horses
Horse training
Horse training refers to a variety of practices that teach horses to perform certain behaviors when asked to do so by humans. Horses are trained to be manageable by humans for everyday care as well as for equestrian activities from horse racing to therapeutic horseback riding for people with...

 often specialize in this task only, and some may "Break" or train young horses for more than one ranch.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a unit of the United States Department of Labor. It is the principal fact-finding agency for the U.S. government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics. The BLS is a governmental statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and...

 collects no figures for cowboys, so the exact number of working cowboys is unknown. Cowboys are included in the 2003 category, Support activities for animal production, which totals 9,730 workers averaging $19,340 per annum. In addition to cowboys working on ranches, in stockyards, and as staff or competitors at rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

s, the category includes farmhands working with other types of livestock (sheep, goat
Goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

s, hogs
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

, chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

s, etc.). Of those 9,730 workers, 3,290 are listed in the subcategory of Spectator sports which includes rodeos, circus
Circus
A circus is commonly a travelling company of performers that may include clowns, acrobats, trained animals, trapeze acts, musicians, hoopers, tightrope walkers, jugglers, unicyclists and other stunt-oriented artists...

es, and theaters needing livestock handlers.

Attire

Most cowboy attire, sometimes termed Western wear
Western wear
Western wear is a category of men's and women's clothing which derives its unique style from the clothes worn in the 19th-century American West. It ranges from accurate historical reproductions of pioneer, mountain man, Civil War, cowboy and vaquero clothing to the stylized garments popularized by...

, grew out of practical need and the environment in which the cowboy worked. Most items were adapted from the Mexican vaqueros, though sources from other cultures, including Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 and Mountain Men contributed.
  • Bandanna; a large cotton neckerchief
    Neckerchief
    A neckerchief, necker or less commonly scarf is a type of neckwear associated with Scouts, cowboys and sailors. It consists of a triangular piece of cloth or a rectangular piece folded into a triangle. The long edge is rolled towards the point, leaving a portion unrolled...

     that had myriad uses: from mopping up sweat to masking the face from dust storms. In modern times, is now more likely to be a silk neckscarf for decoration and warmth.
  • Chaps
    Chaps
    Chaps are sturdy coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt. They are buckled on over trousers with the chaps' integrated belt, but unlike trousers they have no seat and are not joined at the crotch. They are designed to provide protection for the legs and are usually made of leather...

     (usually pronounced "shaps") or chinks
    Chaps
    Chaps are sturdy coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt. They are buckled on over trousers with the chaps' integrated belt, but unlike trousers they have no seat and are not joined at the crotch. They are designed to provide protection for the legs and are usually made of leather...

     protect the rider's legs while on horseback, especially riding through heavy brush or during rough work with livestock.
  • Cowboy hat
    Cowboy hat
    The cowboy hat is a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat best known as the defining piece of attire for the North American cowboy. Today it is worn by many people, and is particularly associated with ranch workers in the western and southern United States, western Canada and northern Mexico, with...

    ; High crowned hat with a wide brim to protect from sun, overhanging brush, and the elements. There are many styles, initially influenced by John B. Stetson's Boss of the plains
    Boss of the plains
    The Boss of the Plains was a lightweight all-weather hat designed by John B. Stetson for the demands of the American west. It was intended to be durable, waterproof and elegant...

    , which was designed in response to the climatic conditions of the West.
  • Cowboy boot
    Cowboy boot
    Cowboy boots refer to a specific style of riding boot, historically worn by cowboys. They have a Cuban heel, rounded to pointed toe, high shaft, and, traditionally, no lacing...

    s; a boot with a high top to protect the lower legs, pointed toes to help guide the foot into the stirrup
    Stirrup
    A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle by a strap, often called a stirrup leather. Stirrups are usually paired and are used to aid in mounting and as a support while using a riding animal...

    , and high heels to keep the foot from slipping through the stirrup while working in the saddle; with or without detachable spur
    Spur
    A spur is a metal tool designed to be worn in pairs on the heels of riding boots for the purpose of directing a horse to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine the riding aids and to back up the natural aids . The spur is used in every equestrian discipline...

    s.
  • Gloves, usually of deerskin or other leather that is soft and flexible for working purposes, yet provides protection when handling barbed wire, assorted tools or clearing native brush and vegetation.
  • Jeans
    Jeans
    Jeans are trousers made from denim. Some of the earliest American blue jeans were made by Jacob Davis, Calvin Rogers, and Levi Strauss in 1873. Starting in the 1950s, jeans, originally designed for cowboys, became popular among teenagers. Historic brands include Levi's, Lee, and Wrangler...

     or other sturdy, close-fitting trousers made of canvas or denim, designed to protect the legs and prevent the trouser legs from snagging on brush, equipment or other hazards. Properly made cowboy jeans also have a smooth inside seam to prevent blistering the inner thigh and knee while on horseback.


Many of these items show marked regional variations. Parameters such as hat brim width, or chap length and material were adjusted to accommodate the various environmental conditions encountered by working cowboys.

Tools

  • Firearms: Modern cowboys often have access to a rifle
    Rifle
    A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

    , used to protect the livestock from predation by wild animals, more often carried inside a pickup truck
    Pickup truck
    A pickup truck is a light motor vehicle with an open-top rear cargo area .-Definition:...

     than on horseback, though rifle scabbard
    Scabbard
    A scabbard is a sheath for holding a sword, knife, or other large blade. Scabbards have been made of many materials over the millennia, including leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.-Types of scabbards:...

    s are manufactured, and allow a rifle to be carried on a saddle
    Saddle
    A saddle is a supportive structure for a rider or other load, fastened to an animal's back by a girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a horse, but specialized saddles have been created for camels and other creatures...

    . A pistol
    Pistol
    When distinguished as a subset of handguns, a pistol is a handgun with a chamber that is integral with the barrel, as opposed to a revolver, wherein the chamber is separate from the barrel as a revolving cylinder. Typically, pistols have an effective range of about 100 feet.-History:The pistol...

     is more often carried when on horseback. The modern ranch hand often uses a .22 caliber "varmit" rifle for modern ranch hazards, such as rattlesnake
    Rattlesnake
    Rattlesnakes are a group of venomous snakes of the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus of the subfamily Crotalinae . There are 32 known species of rattlesnake, with between 65-70 subspecies, all native to the Americas, ranging from southern Alberta and southern British Columbia in Canada to Central...

    s, coyote
    Coyote
    The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

    s, and rabid
    Rabies
    Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis in warm-blooded animals. It is zoonotic , most commonly by a bite from an infected animal. For a human, rabies is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms...

     skunk
    Skunk
    Skunks are mammals best known for their ability to secrete a liquid with a strong, foul odor. General appearance varies from species to species, from black-and-white to brown or cream colored. Skunks belong to the family Mephitidae and to the order Carnivora...

    s. In areas near wilderness
    Wilderness
    Wilderness or wildland is a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. It may also be defined as: "The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with...

    , a ranch cowboy may carry a higher-caliber rifle to fend off larger predators such as mountain lions. In contrast, the cowboy of the 1880s usually carried a heavy caliber revolver such as the single action .44-40
    .44-40 Winchester
    The .44-40 Winchester, also known as the .44 Winchester, the .44 WCF , and the .44 Largo was introduced in 1873 by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. It was the first centerfire metallic cartridge offered by Winchester,and was brought out as the standard chambering for the new Winchester Model...

     or .45 Colt
    .45 Colt
    The .45 Colt cartridge is a handgun cartridge dating to 1872. It began as a black powder revolver round developed for the Colt Single Action Army revolver, but is offered as a magnum level handgun hunting round in modern usage. This cartridge was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1873 and served as the...

     Peacemaker (the civilian version of the 1872 Single Action Army). The working cowboy of the 1880s rarely carried a long arm, as they could get in the way when working cattle, plus they added extra weight. However, many cowboys owned rifles, and often used them for market hunting in the off season. Though many models were used, Cowboys who were part-time market hunters preferred rifles that could take the widely available .45-70 "Government" ammunition, such as certain Sharps, Remington, Springfield models, as well as the Winchester 1876. However, by far the single most popular long arms were the lever-action repeating Winchesters, particularly lighter models such as the Model 1873 chambered for the same .44/40 ammunition as the Colt, allowing the cowboy to carry only one kind of ammunition.
  • Knife
    Knife
    A knife is a cutting tool with an exposed cutting edge or blade, hand-held or otherwise, with or without a handle. Knives were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools...

    ; cowboys have traditionally favored some form of pocket knife
    Pocket knife
    A pocket knife is a folding knife with one or more blades that fit inside the handle that can still fit in a pocket. It is also known as a jackknife or jack-knife...

    , specifically the folding cattle knife or stock knife. The knife has multiple blades, usually including a leather punch and a "sheepsfoot" blade.
  • Lariat
    Lasso
    A lasso , also referred to as a lariat, riata, or reata , is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. It is a well-known tool of the American cowboy. The word is also a verb; to lasso is to successfully throw the loop of rope around something...

    ; from the Spanish "la riata," meaning "the rope," sometimes called a lasso, especially in the East, or simply, a "rope". This is a tightly twisted stiff rope, originally of rawhide or leather, now often of nylon, made with a small loop at one end called a "hondo." When the rope is run through the hondo, it creates a loop that slides easily, tightens quickly and can be thrown to catch animals.
  • Spur
    Spur
    A spur is a metal tool designed to be worn in pairs on the heels of riding boots for the purpose of directing a horse to move forward or laterally while riding. It is usually used to refine the riding aids and to back up the natural aids . The spur is used in every equestrian discipline...

    s; metal devices attached to the heel of the boot, featuring a small metal shank, usually with a small serrated wheel attached, used to allow the rider to provide a stronger (or sometimes, more precise) leg cue to the horse.
  • Other weapons; while the modern American cowboy came to existence after the invention of gunpowder
    Gunpowder
    Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

    , cattle herders of earlier times were sometimes equipped with heavy polearms, bows
    Bow (weapon)
    The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon system that predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.-Description:A bow is a flexible arc that shoots aerodynamic projectiles by means of elastic energy. Essentially, the bow is a form of spring powered by a string or cord...

     or lance
    Lance
    A Lance is a pole weapon or spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior. The lance is longer, stout and heavier than an infantry spear, and unsuited for throwing, or for rapid thrusting. Lances did not have tips designed to intentionally break off or bend, unlike many throwing weapons of the...

    s.


Horses

The traditional means of transport for the cowboy, even in the modern era, is by horseback
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

. Horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s can travel over terrain that vehicles cannot access. Horses, along with mule
Mule
A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes. Of the two F1 hybrids between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a hinny...

s and burro
Burro
The burro is a small donkey used primarily as a pack animal. In addition, significant numbers of feral burros live in the Southwestern United States, where they are protected by law, and in Mexico...

s, also serve as pack animals
Packhorse
.A packhorse or pack horse refers generally to an equid such as a horse, mule, donkey or pony used for carrying goods on their backs, usually carried in sidebags or panniers. Typically packhorses are used to cross difficult terrain, where the absence of roads prevents the use of wheeled vehicles. ...

. The most important horse on the ranch is the everyday working ranch horse that can perform a wide variety of tasks; horses trained to specialize exclusively in one set of skills such as roping
Calf roping
Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event that features a calf and a rider mounted on a horse. The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by...

 or cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

 are very rarely used on ranches. Because the rider often needs to keep one hand free while working cattle, the horse must neck rein
Neck rein
A neck rein is a type of indirect rein aid. The horse responds to a neck rein when it has learned that a light pressure of the right rein against its neck on that side means for the horse to turn left, and vice versa....

 and have good cow sense—it must instinctively know how to anticipate and react to cattle.

A good stock horse
Stock horse
A Stock horse is a horse of a type that is well suited for working with livestock, particularly cattle. Such horses are riding horsescharacterized by agility, quickness, and powerful hindquarters...

 is on the small side, generally under 15.2 hands (62 inches) tall at the withers
Withers
The withers is the ridge between the shoulder blades of a four-legged animal. In many species it is the tallest point of the body, and in horses and dogs it is the standard place to measure the animal's height .-Horses:The withers in horses are formed by the dorsal spinal processes of roughly the...

 and often under 1000 pounds, with a short back, sturdy legs and strong muscling, particularly in the hindquarters. While a steer roping
Team roping
Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer and two mounted riders. The first roper is referred to as the "header," the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around...

 horse may need to be larger and weigh more in order to hold a heavy adult cow, bull
Bull
Bull usually refers to an uncastrated adult male bovine.Bull may also refer to:-Entertainment:* Bull , an original show on the TNT Network* "Bull" , an episode of television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

 or steer on a rope, a smaller, quick horse is needed for herding activities such as cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

 or calf roping
Calf roping
Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event that features a calf and a rider mounted on a horse. The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by...

. The horse has to be intelligent, calm under pressure and have a certain degree of 'cow sense" -- the ability to anticipate the movement and behavior of cattle.

Many breeds of horse make good stock horses, but the most common today in North America is the American Quarter Horse
American Quarter Horse
The American Quarter Horse is an American breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name came from its ability to outdistance other breeds of horses in races of a quarter mile or less; some individuals have been clocked at speeds up to 55 mph...

, which is a horse breed developed primarily in Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 from a combination of Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

 bloodstock crossed on horses of Mustang
Mustang (horse)
A Mustang is a free-roaming horse of the North American west that first descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but there is intense debate over terminology...

 and other Iberian horse
Iberian horse
The Iberian horse is a title given to a number of horse breeds native to the Iberian peninsula. At present, 17 horse breeds are recognized by FAO as characteristic of the Iberian Peninsula....

 ancestry, with influences from the Arabian horse
Arabian horse
The Arabian or Arab horse is a breed of horse that originated on the Arabian Peninsula. With a distinctive head shape and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world. It is also one of the oldest breeds, with archaeological evidence of horses...

 and horses developed on the east coast, such as the Morgan horse
Morgan horse
The Morgan is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States. Tracing back to the stallion Figure, later named Justin Morgan after his best-known owner, the breed excels in many disciplines, and is known for its versatility....

 and now-extinct breeds such as the Chickasaw and Virginia Quarter-Miler.

Horse equipment or tack

Equipment used to ride a horse is referred to as tack
Horse tack
Tack is a term used to describe any of the various equipment and accessories worn by horses in the course of their use as domesticated animals. Saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, martingales, and breastplates are all forms of horse tack...

and includes:
  • Bridle
    Bridle
    A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, the "bridle" includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit....

    ; a Western bridle usually has a curb bit
    Curb bit
    A curb bit is a type of bit used for riding horses that uses lever action. It includes the pelham bit and the Weymouth curb along with the traditional "curb bit" used mainly by Western riders....

     and long split rein
    Rein
    Reins are items of horse tack, used to direct a horse or other animal used for riding or driving. Reins can be made of leather, nylon, metal, or other materials, and attach to a bridle via either its bit or its noseband.-Use for riding:...

    s to control the horse in many different situations. Generally the bridle is open-faced, without a noseband
    Noseband
    A noseband is the part of a horse's bridle that encircles the nose and jaw of the horse. In English riding, where the noseband is separately attached to its own headstall or crownpiece, held independently of the bit, it is often called a cavesson or caveson noseband...

    , unless the horse is ridden with a tiedown
    Martingale (tack)
    A martingale is any of several designs of tack that are used on horses to control head carriage. Martingales may be seen in a wide variety of equestrian disciplines, both riding and driving...

    . Young ranch horses learning basic tasks usually are ridden in a jointed, loose-ring snaffle bit, often with a running martingale
    Martingale (tack)
    A martingale is any of several designs of tack that are used on horses to control head carriage. Martingales may be seen in a wide variety of equestrian disciplines, both riding and driving...

    . In some areas, especially where the "California" style of the vaquero or buckaroo tradition is still strong, young horses are often seen in a bosal
    Bosal
    A bosal is a type of noseband used on the classic hackamore of the vaquero tradition. It is usually made of braided rawhide and is fitted to the horse in a manner that allows it to rest quietly until the rider uses the reins to give a signal. It acts upon the horse's nose and jaw...

    style hackamore
    Hackamore
    A hackamore is a type of animal headgear which does not have a bit. Instead, it has a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the face, nose, and chin...

    .
  • Martingales
    Martingale (tack)
    A martingale is any of several designs of tack that are used on horses to control head carriage. Martingales may be seen in a wide variety of equestrian disciplines, both riding and driving...

     of various types are seen on horses that are in training or have behavior problems.
  • Saddle bags (leather or nylon) can be mounted to the saddle, behind the cantle, to carry various sundry items and extra supplies. Additional bags may be attached to the front or the saddle.
  • Saddle blanket
    Saddle blanket
    The terms saddle blanket, saddle pad and saddle cloth refer to blankets, pads or fabrics inserted under a saddle. These are usually used to absorb sweat, cushion the saddle, and protect the horse's back. Saddle blankets have been used for many centuries with all types of saddles...

    ; a blanket or pad is required under the Western saddle to provide comfort and protection for the horse.
  • Western saddle
    Western saddle
    Western saddles are used for western riding and are the saddles used on working horses on cattle ranches throughout the United States, particularly in the west. They are the "cowboy" saddles familiar to movie viewers, rodeo fans, and those who have gone on trail rides at guest ranches...

    ; a saddle specially designed to allow horse and rider
    Equestrianism
    Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

     to work for many hours and to provide security to the rider in rough terrain or when moving quickly in response to the behavior of the livestock being herded. A western saddle has a deep seat with high pommel
    Saddle
    A saddle is a supportive structure for a rider or other load, fastened to an animal's back by a girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a horse, but specialized saddles have been created for camels and other creatures...

     and cantle
    Saddle
    A saddle is a supportive structure for a rider or other load, fastened to an animal's back by a girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a horse, but specialized saddles have been created for camels and other creatures...

     that provides a secure seat. Deep, wide stirrup
    Stirrup
    A stirrup is a light frame or ring that holds the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle by a strap, often called a stirrup leather. Stirrups are usually paired and are used to aid in mounting and as a support while using a riding animal...

    s provide comfort and security for the foot. A strong, wide saddle tree
    Saddle
    A saddle is a supportive structure for a rider or other load, fastened to an animal's back by a girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a horse, but specialized saddles have been created for camels and other creatures...

     of wood, covered in rawhide (or made of a modern synthetic material) distributes the weight of the rider across a greater area of the horse's back, reducing the pounds carried per square inch and allowing the horse to be ridden longer without harm. A horn
    Western saddle
    Western saddles are used for western riding and are the saddles used on working horses on cattle ranches throughout the United States, particularly in the west. They are the "cowboy" saddles familiar to movie viewers, rodeo fans, and those who have gone on trail rides at guest ranches...

     sits low in front of the rider, to which a lariat
    Lasso
    A lasso , also referred to as a lariat, riata, or reata , is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. It is a well-known tool of the American cowboy. The word is also a verb; to lasso is to successfully throw the loop of rope around something...

     can be snubbed, and assorted dee rings and leather "saddle strings" allow additional equipment to be tied to the saddle.

Vehicles

The most common motorized vehicle driven in modern ranch work is the pickup truck
Pickup truck
A pickup truck is a light motor vehicle with an open-top rear cargo area .-Definition:...

. Sturdy and roomy, with a high ground clearance, and often four-wheel drive
Four-wheel drive
Four-wheel drive, 4WD, or 4×4 is a four-wheeled vehicle with a drivetrain that allows all four wheels to receive torque from the engine simultaneously...

 capability, it has an open box, called a "bed," and can haul supplies from town or over rough trails on the ranch. It is used to pull stock trailers transporting cattle and livestock from one area to another and to market. With a horse trailer
Horse trailer
A horse trailer or horse van is used to transport horses...

 attached, it carries horses to distant areas where they may be needed. Motorcycles are sometimes used instead of horses for some tasks, but the most common smaller vehicle is the four-wheeler
All-terrain vehicle
An all-terrain vehicle , also known as a quad, quad bike, three wheeler, or four wheeler, is defined by the American National Standards Institute as a vehicle that travels on low pressure tires, with a seat that is straddled by the operator, along with handlebars for steering control...

. It will carry a single cowboy quickly around the ranch for small chores. In areas with heavy snowfall, snowmobile
Snowmobile
A snowmobile, also known in some places as a snowmachine, or sled,is a land vehicle for winter travel on snow. Designed to be operated on snow and ice, they require no road or trail. Design variations enable some machines to operate in deep snow or forests; most are used on open terrain, including...

s are also common. However, in spite of modern mechanization, there remain jobs, particularly those involving working cattle in rough terrain or in close quarters, that are best performed by cowboys on horseback.

Rodeo cowboys

The word rodeo is from the Spanish rodear (to turn), which means roundup. In the beginning there was no difference between the working cowboy and the rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

 cowboy, and in fact, the term working cowboy did not come into use until the 1950s. Prior to that it was assumed that all cowboys were working cowboys. Early cowboys both worked on ranches and displayed their skills at the roundups.

The advent of professional rodeos allowed cowboys, like many athletes, to earn a living by performing their skills before an audience. Rodeos also provided employment
Employment
Employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer and the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as:- Employee :...

 for many working cowboys who were needed to handle livestock. Many rodeo cowboys are also working cowboys and most have working cowboy experience.

The dress of the rodeo cowboy is not very different from that of the working cowboy on his way to town. Snaps, used in lieu of buttons on the cowboy's shirt, allowed the cowboy to escape from a shirt snagged by the horns of steer or bull
Bull
Bull usually refers to an uncastrated adult male bovine.Bull may also refer to:-Entertainment:* Bull , an original show on the TNT Network* "Bull" , an episode of television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation...

. Styles were often adapted from the early movie industry for the rodeo. Some rodeo competitors, particularly women, add sequins, colors, silver and long fringes to their clothing in both a nod to tradition and showmanship. Modern riders in "rough stock" events such as saddle bronc or bull riding
Bull riding
Bull riding refers to rodeo sports that involve a rider getting on a large bull and attempting to stay mounted while the animal attempts to buck off the rider....

 may add safety equipment such as kevlar
Kevlar
Kevlar is the registered trademark for a para-aramid synthetic fiber, related to other aramids such as Nomex and Technora. Developed at DuPont in 1965, this high strength material was first commercially used in the early 1970s as a replacement for steel in racing tires...

 vests or a neck brace, but use of safety helmets in lieu of the cowboy hat
Cowboy hat
The cowboy hat is a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat best known as the defining piece of attire for the North American cowboy. Today it is worn by many people, and is particularly associated with ranch workers in the western and southern United States, western Canada and northern Mexico, with...

 is yet to be accepted, in spite of constant risk of injury.

In popular culture

As the frontier ended, the cowboy life came to be highly romanticized. Exhibitions such as those of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show helped to popularize the image of the cowboy as an idealized representative of the tradition of chivalry
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

.

In today's society, there is little understanding of the daily realities of actual agricultural life. Cowboys are more often associated with (mostly fictitious) Indian-fighting than with their actual life of ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

 work and cattle-tending. The cowboy is also portrayed as a masculine ideal via images ranging from the Marlboro Man
Marlboro Man
The Marlboro Man is a figure used in tobacco advertising campaign for Marlboro cigarettes. In the United States, where the campaign originated, it was used from 1954 to 1999. The Marlboro Man was first conceived by Leo Burnett in 1954. The image involves a rugged cowboy or cowboys, in nature with...

 to the Village People
Village People
Village People is a concept disco group that formed in the United States in 1977, well known for their on-stage costumes depicting American cultural stereotypes, as well as their catchy tunes and suggestive lyrics....

.
Actors such as John Wayne
John Wayne
Marion Mitchell Morrison , better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director and producer. He epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon. He is famous for his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height...

 are thought of as exemplifying a cowboy ideal, even though western movies
Western (genre)
The Western is a genre of various visual arts, such as film, television, radio, literature, painting and others. Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. Some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of...

 seldom bear much resemblance to real cowboy life. Arguably, the modern rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

 competitor is much closer to being an actual cowboy, as many were actually raised on ranches and around livestock, and the rest have needed to learn livestock-handling skills on the job.

However, in the United States and the Canadian West, as well as Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, guest ranches offer people the opportunity to ride horses and get a taste of the western life—albeit in far greater comfort. Some ranches also offer vacationers the opportunity to actually perform cowboy tasks by participating in cattle drives or accompanying wagon train
Wagon train
A wagon train is a group of wagons traveling together. In the American West, individuals traveling across the plains in covered wagons banded together for mutual assistance, as is reflected in numerous films and television programs about the region, such as Audie Murphy's Tumbleweed and Ward Bond...

s. This type of vacation
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 was popularized by the 1991 movie City Slickers
City Slickers
City Slickers is a 1991 American comedy film directed by Ron Underwood and starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, Helen Slater and Jack Palance. Palance won an Academy Award for his performance....

,
starring Billy Crystal
Billy Crystal
William Edward "Billy" Crystal is an American actor, writer, producer, comedian and film director. He gained prominence in the 1970s for playing Jodie Dallas on the ABC sitcom Soap and became a Hollywood film star during the late 1980s and 1990s, appearing in the critical and box office successes...

.

Symbolism

In 2005, the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 declared the fourth Saturday of July as "National Day of the American Cowboy" via a Senate resolution and has subsequently renewed this resolution each year, with the United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 periodically issuing statements of support.

Whereas pioneering men and women, known as cowboys, helped establish the American West;

Whereas the cowboy embodies honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, and patriotism;

Whereas the cowboy spirit exemplifies strength of character, sound family values, and good common sense;

Whereas the cowboy archetype transcends ethnicity, gender, geographic boundaries, and political affiliation;

Whereas the cowboy is an excellent steward of the land and its creatures;

Whereas the cowboy lives off the land and works to protect and enhance the environment;

Whereas cowboy traditions have been part of the American culture for generations;

Whereas the cowboy continues to be an important part of the economy, through the work of approximately 727,000 ranchers in all 50 States, and contributes to the well-being of nearly every county in the Nation;

Whereas annual attendance at professional and working ranch rodeo events exceeds 27,000,000 fans, and the rodeo is the 7th most watched sport in the Nation;

Whereas membership and participation in rodeo and other organizations that promote and encompass the livelihood of the cowboy spans race, gender, and generations;

Whereas the cowboy is a central figure in literature, film, and music, and occupies a central place in the public imagination;

Whereas the cowboy is an American icon; and

Whereas the ongoing contributions made by cowboys and cowgirls to their communities should be recognized and encouraged: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) expresses support for the designation of a `National Day of the Cowboy' ; and

(2) encourages the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.


The long history of the West in popular culture tends to define those clothed in Western clothing as cowboys or cowgirls whether they have ever been on a horse or not. This is especially true when applied to entertainers and those in the public arena who wear western wear
Western wear
Western wear is a category of men's and women's clothing which derives its unique style from the clothes worn in the 19th-century American West. It ranges from accurate historical reproductions of pioneer, mountain man, Civil War, cowboy and vaquero clothing to the stylized garments popularized by...

 as part of their persona. However, the reality is that many people, particularly in the West, including lawyers, bankers, and other white collar
White-collar worker
The term white-collar worker refers to a person who performs professional, managerial, or administrative work, in contrast with a blue-collar worker, whose job requires manual labor...

 professionals wear elements of Western clothing, particularly cowboy boot
Cowboy boot
Cowboy boots refer to a specific style of riding boot, historically worn by cowboys. They have a Cuban heel, rounded to pointed toe, high shaft, and, traditionally, no lacing...

s or hats, as a matter of form even though they have other jobs. Conversely, some people raised on ranches do not necessarily define themselves cowboys or cowgirls unless they feel their primary job is to work with livestock or if they compete in rodeos.

Actual cowboys have derisive expressions for individuals who adopt cowboy mannerisms as a fashion pose without any actual understanding of the culture. For example, a "drugstore cowboy" means someone who wears the clothing but does not actually sit upon anything but the stool of the drugstore
Pharmacy
Pharmacy is the health profession that links the health sciences with the chemical sciences and it is charged with ensuring the safe and effective use of pharmaceutical drugs...

 soda fountain
Soda fountain
A soda fountain is a device that dispenses carbonated drinks. They can be found in restaurants, concession stands and other locations such as convenience stores...

--or, in modern times, a bar stool
Bar stool
Bar stools are a type of tall stool, often with a foot rest, which because of their height and narrowness are designed for seating in a public house or bar...

. Similarly, the phrase "all hat and no cattle" is used to describe someone (usually male) who boasts about himself, far in excess of any actual accomplishments. The word "dude" (or the now-archaic term "greenhorn") indicates an individual unfamiliar with cowboy culture, especially one who is trying to pretend otherwise.

Outside of the United States, the cowboy has become an archetypal symbol of American individualism. In the late 1950s, a Congolese
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

 youth subculture calling themselves the Bills
Bills
The Bills were a youth subculture that thrived in Léopoldville in the late 1950s, basing much of their image and outlook on the cowboys of American Western movies...

 based their style and outlook on Hollywood's depiction of cowboys in movies. Something similar occurred with the term "Apache
Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

", which in early 20th century Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

ian society was a slang term for an outlaw.

Negative associations

The word "cowboy" is also used in a negative sense. Originally this derived from the behavior of some cowboys in the boomtowns of Kansas, at the end of the trail for long cattle drives, where cowboys developed a reputation for violence and wild behavior due to the inevitable impact of large numbers of cowboys, mostly young single men, receiving their pay in large lump sums upon arriving in communities with many drinking and gambling establishments.

"Cowboy" as an adjective for "reckless" developed in the 1920s. "Cowboy" is sometimes used today in a derogatory sense to describe someone who is reckless or ignores potential risks, irresponsible or who heedlessly handles a sensitive or dangerous task. TIME Magazine referred to President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

's foreign policy as "Cowboy diplomacy
Cowboy diplomacy
Cowboy diplomacy is a term used by critics to describe the resolution of international conflicts through brash risk-taking, intimidation, military deployment, or a combination of such tactics. It is criticized as stemming from an overly-simple, dichotomous world view. Overtly provocative...

", and Bush has been described in the press, particularly in Europe, as a "cowboy".

In English-speaking regions outside North America, such as the British Isles
British Isles
The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

 and Australasia
Australasia
Australasia is a region of Oceania comprising Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. The term was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes...

, "cowboy" can refer to a tradesmen
Tradesman
This article is about the skilled manual worker meaning of the term; for other uses see Tradesperson .A tradesman is a skilled manual worker in a particular trade or craft. Economically and socially, a tradesman's status is considered between a laborer and a professional, with a high degree of both...

 whose work is of shoddy and questionable value, e.g., "a cowboy plumber
Plumber
A plumber is a tradesperson who specializes in installing and maintaining systems used for potable water, sewage, and drainage in plumbing systems. The term dates from ancient times, and is related to the Latin word for lead, "plumbum." A person engaged in fixing metaphorical "leaks" may also be...

". Similar usage is seen in the United States to describe someone in the skilled trades who operates without proper training or licenses. In the eastern United States, "cowboy" as a noun is sometimes used to describe a fast or careless driver on the highway.

See also

  • American Old West
    American Old West
    The American Old West, or the Wild West, comprises the history, geography, people, lore, and cultural expression of life in the Western United States, most often referring to the latter half of the 19th century, between the American Civil War and the end of the century...

  • American West
  • Herding
    Herding
    Herding is the act of bringing individual animals together into a group , maintaining the group and moving the group from place to place—or any combination of those. While the layperson uses the term "herding", most individuals involved in the process term it mustering, "working stock" or...

    • Goatherd
      Goatherd
      A goatherd or goatherder is a person who herds goats as a vocational activity. Similar to a fisherman who catches fish for a living, the drover here herds goats. Goatherds are popular in countries where goat populations are significant; for instance, in Africa and South Asia...

    • Shepherd
      Shepherd
      A shepherd is a person who tends, feeds or guards flocks of sheep.- Origins :Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations, beginning some 6,000 years ago in Asia Minor. Sheep were kept for their milk, meat and especially their wool...

  • Gunfighter
  • Cowboy church
    Cowboy church
    Cowboy churches are local Christian churches within the cowboy culture that are distinctively Western heritage in character. A typical cowboy church may meet in a rural setting in a barn, metal building, arena, sale barn, or old western building, have its own rodeo arena, and a country gospel band....

  • List of cowboys and cowgirls
  • List of Ranches and Stations
  • Ranch
    Ranch
    A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

    • Agricultural fencing
      Agricultural fencing
      In agriculture, fences are used to keep animals in or out of an area. They can be made from a wide variety of materials, depending on terrain, location and animals to be confined...

    • Livestock branding
      Livestock branding
      Livestock branding is a technique for marking livestock so as to identify the owner. Originally, livestock branding only referred to a hot brand for large stock, though the term is now also used to refer to other alternative techniques such as freeze branding...

  • Rodeo
    Rodeo
    Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

    • Charreada
      Charreada
      The charreada or charrería is a competitive event similar to rodeo and was developed from animal husbandry practices used on the haciendas of Old Mexico. The sport has been described as "living history," or as an art form drawn the demands of working life...

  • Station (Australian agriculture)
    Station (Australian agriculture)
    Station is the term for a large Australian landholding used for livestock production. It corresponds to the North American term ranch or South American estancia...

    • Stockman (Australia)
  • Transhumance
    Transhumance
    Transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. In montane regions it implies movement between higher pastures in summer and to lower valleys in winter. Herders have a permanent home, typically in valleys. Only the herds travel, with...

  • Singing cowboys
  • Western wear
    Western wear
    Western wear is a category of men's and women's clothing which derives its unique style from the clothes worn in the 19th-century American West. It ranges from accurate historical reproductions of pioneer, mountain man, Civil War, cowboy and vaquero clothing to the stylized garments popularized by...

    • Chaps
      Chaps
      Chaps are sturdy coverings for the legs consisting of leggings and a belt. They are buckled on over trousers with the chaps' integrated belt, but unlike trousers they have no seat and are not joined at the crotch. They are designed to provide protection for the legs and are usually made of leather...

    • Cowboy hat
      Cowboy hat
      The cowboy hat is a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat best known as the defining piece of attire for the North American cowboy. Today it is worn by many people, and is particularly associated with ranch workers in the western and southern United States, western Canada and northern Mexico, with...

    • Cowboy boot
      Cowboy boot
      Cowboy boots refer to a specific style of riding boot, historically worn by cowboys. They have a Cuban heel, rounded to pointed toe, high shaft, and, traditionally, no lacing...

    • Boss of the plains
      Boss of the plains
      The Boss of the Plains was a lightweight all-weather hat designed by John B. Stetson for the demands of the American west. It was intended to be durable, waterproof and elegant...


In art and culture
  • Audition (performing arts) also known as a "Cattle Call."
  • Fashion: "Rhinestone Cowboy", Western wear
    Western wear
    Western wear is a category of men's and women's clothing which derives its unique style from the clothes worn in the 19th-century American West. It ranges from accurate historical reproductions of pioneer, mountain man, Civil War, cowboy and vaquero clothing to the stylized garments popularized by...

    ,
  • Film: Drugstore Cowboy
    Drugstore Cowboy
    Drugstore Cowboy is a 1989 crime drama directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, based on a novel by James Fogle. Matt Dillon stars in the title role, and Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham, and William S. Burroughs are also featured. Drugstore Cowboy was filmed mainly around...

    , Western movie ("Western"), List of Western movies
  • Fine art: Earl W. Bascom
    Earl W. Bascom
    Earl W. Bascom was an American painter, printmaker, rodeo performer and sculptor, raised in Canada, who portrayed his own experiences cowboying and rodeoing across the American and Canadian West.- Childhood :...

    , Frederic Remington
    Frederic Remington
    Frederic Sackrider Remington was an American painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer who specialized in depictions of the Old American West, specifically concentrating on the last quarter of the 19th century American West and images of cowboys, American Indians, and the U. S...

    , Charles Russell
    Charles Marion Russell
    Charles Marion Russell , also known as C. M. Russell, Charlie Russell, and "Kid" Russell, was an artist of the Old American West. Russell created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Indians, and landscapes set in the Western United States, in addition to bronze sculptures...

    , Cowboy Artists of America
    Cowboy Artists of America
    The Cowboy Artists of America was founded in 1965 by four prominent western artists, Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton and George Phippen, who have all since died...

  • Literature: Cowboy poetry
    Cowboy poetry
    Cowboy poetry cp is a form of poetry which grew out of a tradition of extemporaneous composition carried on by workers on cattle drives and ranches. After a day of work, cowboys would gather around a campfire and entertain one another with tall tales and folk songs...

    , Western fiction
    Western fiction
    Western fiction is a genre of literature set in the American Old West frontier and typically set from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. Well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey from the early 1900s and Louis L'Amour from the mid 20th century...

    , List of Western fiction authors
  • Music: List of famous Cowboy songs, Western Music (North America)
    Western music (North America)
    Western music originated as a form of American folk music. Originally composed by and about the people who settled and worked throughout the Western United States and Western Canada. Directly related musically to old English, Scottish, and Irish folk ballads, Western music celebrates the life of...

    , Western swing
    Western swing
    Western swing music is a subgenre of American country music that originated in the late 1920s in the West and South among the region's Western string bands...

  • Sports: Cowboy action shooting
    Cowboy action shooting
    Cowboy Action Shooting , also known as Western Action Shooting or Single Action Shooting, is a competitive shooting sport that originated in California, USA, in the early 1980s...

    , Charreada
    Charreada
    The charreada or charrería is a competitive event similar to rodeo and was developed from animal husbandry practices used on the haciendas of Old Mexico. The sport has been described as "living history," or as an art form drawn the demands of working life...

    , Indian rodeo
    Indian rodeo
    Indian rodeo is the rodeo subculture of Native American rodeo athletes and, in Canada, First Nations athletes. In the United States there are a number of regional associations and at least two national Finals. In Canada, Indian rodeos share a major role in small aboriginal communities and are...

    , Rodeo
    Rodeo
    Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

    .
  • Television: TV Western


Further reading

  • Beck, Warren A., Haase, Ynez D.; Historical Atlas of the American West. University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma, 1989. ISBN 0-8061-2193-9.
  • Davis, David Brion. "Ten-Gallon Hero: The Myth of the Cowboy". In Myth America: A Historical Anthology, Volume II. 1997. Gerster, Patrick, and Cords, Nicholas. (editors.) Brandywine Press, St. James, NY. ISBN 1-881-089-97-5
  • Jordan, Teresa; Cowgirls: Women of the American West. University of Nebraska Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8032-7575-7.
  • Nicholson, Jon. Cowboys: A Vanishing World. Macmillan, 2001. ISBN 0-333-90208-4.
  • Phillips, Charles; Axlerod, Alan; editor. The Encyclopedia of the American West. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996. ISBN 0-02-897495-6.
  • Roach, Joyce Gibson; The Cowgirls. University of North Texas Press, 1990. ISBN 0-929398-15-7.
  • Slatta, Richard W. The Cowboy Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, California, 1994. ISBN 0-87436-738-7.
  • Ward, Fay E.; The Cowboy at Work: All About His Job and How He Does It. University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma, 1987. ISBN 0-8061-2051-7.
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