States Directory / Texas
In the age of the American West, a dynamic new character appeared on the scene – the Cowboy. Cowboys have come to symbolize America’s pioneering spirit, and the cowboy lifestyle has captured the imaginations of many a generation. But the real history of the American Cowboy is a much more nuanced story. The origins of the Cowboy can be traced back to Spanish arrivals in the Americas in the 16th century, with their horses and cattle brought in from their homeland. Cattle were often used to drive other livestock, an activity undertaken primarily by young Hispanic men known as Vaqueros. The practices pioneered by the Spanish Vaqueros eventually spread to the English speaking areas of America, where they were embraced by many of the same communities. In what is now the United States, the development of Cowboy culture can be traced back to the 1830s, when herds of wild Longhorn cattle were rounding up by both Mexican and American cowboys. By the 1870s there were around 4 million Longhorn cattle roaming the West and the profession of Cowboy had become well established. Cowboys would gather large herds of cattle and funnel them across the plains and prairies, while enduring harsh and dangerous weather, terrain and threats from Native Americans, rustlers and outlaws. It was a grueling life of hard labor, but one with rewards. Cowboys were highly respected and enjoyed relative wealth as they drove their herds to market. Cowboys were also known for their impressive abilities in horse-riding, roping and shooting which gave them an almost mythical status in stories and songs.