How did the term “cowpoke” come about?

How did the term “cowpoke” come about?

Mike Franklin

Poteet, Texas

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.

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.