How did the term “cowpoke” come about?
The dictionary states that “cowboy” is from 1725 and originally meant just what it says: a boy who tended cows. It became popular in the West during the late 1840s, when it applied to any man who worked with cattle (and also was an adjective, meaning somebody who was reckless). “Cowpoke” dates to about 1881 and originally referred to the cowboys who prodded cattle onto railroad cars with long poles. Nowadays, cowpoke, cowpuncher, waddy, cowhand, drover and cowboy are all respectable terms to describe one of America’s most cherished icons.