Roots of Cowboy Culture

There wouldn’t be a cowboy culture without the horse. More than 500 years ago the first voyage of horses from Spain arrived in America. The New Mexico Rio Grande Valley supplied the American Indians with the first significant breeding-horse stock. This followed the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. When the Spanish settlers fled their settlements throughout New Mexico leaving most of their livestock behind.

Cowboy 101

Cowboying and cattle ranching was introduced to the Anglo-Americans by the 250-year-old Spanish- American communities of Texas. Anglo-Americans arrived in Texas about 1810. The Anglo-Texans took over the cattle industry. They eventually drove out many Hispanic cowboys and ranchers. This was followed by the loss of much of the Hispanic culture.

Spanish Transforms into a Vernacular

Today, most of the words used to describe the cowboy culture derive from Spanish. Rodear in Spanish means to encircle or round up cattle then it became el rodeo. Chasing cattlethrough brush and cactus required tough clothing. Leather used in clothing became an important part of the cowboy’s attire. Chaparreras became chaps. The leather chaqueta became the jacket. The cowboy wrapped leather leggings above his shoes and called them botas, which later became boots. Around the botas he wore the sharply pointed espuelas and called them spurs.

Tools of the Trade

As well as his clothing, the vaquero (from which came the word  “buckaroo”) had to make his own tools. Primary among these was the lazo which became lasso. The end of the rope formed into a loop called la riata. This became lariat and it became a tool to throw and catch free-running horses and cattle. 

Please support Ana Pacheco's work at:

Buy Me a Coffee

Our nation’s history would not be complete without the story of Santa Fe. Experience the ultimate Santa Fe tour with local historian Ana Pacheco.