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Cowboy

plains cattle drive spanish

Cowboy, person who handles cattle on horseback. The U.S. cowboy has become a legendary folk hero, celebrated in innumerable films and novels. In the early 1800s in areas such as Texas (then part of Mexico), settlers took over the Spanish practice of using the plains for grazing cattle. At the same time they borrowed from the Spanish the typical equipment and methods of the cattle herder: broad-brimmed sombrero hat, bandanna worn around the neck, high-heeled boots that went with heavy “western” saddle and covered stirrups, leather chaps to protect the legs, and lariat with which to rope cattle. To this was added the “six-shooter” revolver. The cowboy was really created by the “long drive.” As the frontier moved westward after the Civil War and the Plains Indians were driven off the open lands into reservations, large herds of cattle, tended by cowboys, were driven every year from the southern plains to the new railheads in the north-central plains. By the 1880s and 1890s the settlement of the central plains and their enclosure with barbed wire put an end to the long drive, but the cowboy continued to be employed in ranch work and even today is known for his riding and roping skills in rodeos.

Henry Dixon Cowell [next] [back] Cowbird

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