Were the Spanish vaqueros the first to round up and herd cattle in the West?
San Ramon, California
Our fearless leader Bob Boze Bell responds, “The Spanish were rounding up cattle from horseback several hundred years before the American cowboy made an appearance. It’s really an incredible story with layers and layers of expertise in terms of horse training and roping methods. It is a story that is long overdue, and most Americans don’t know that the vaquero was a true master of the art, long before the cowboy.”
I might add that the term buckaroo is an American corruption of vaquero. The Spanish really set the foundation for cowboying in this country. The American cowpuncher was quite innovative and resourceful, but wherever they swing a rope, wear a wide-brimmed hat, high-heeled boots, spurs, chaps or hold a rodeo, they are paying tribute to the vaquero.
By the way, the cover story of the September 2009 issue of True West will share this untold history of vaqueros.