Let’s Talk History – Vaqueros

The vaquero (Spanish pronunciation: [baˈkeɾo], Portuguese: vaqueiro [vaˈkejɾu]) is a horse-mounted livestock herder of a tradition that originated on the Iberian Peninsula. Today the vaquero is still a part of the doma vaquera, the Spanish tradition of working riding. The vaquero traditions developed in Mexico from methodology brought to Mesoamerica from Spain also became the foundation for the North American cowboy.

The vaqueros of the Americas were the horsemen and cattle herders of Spanish Mexico, who first came to California with the Jesuit priestEusebio Kino in 1687, and later with expeditions in 1769 and the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition in 1774.

Below is an image of Juan Bautista de Anza :

                                      “They were the first cowboys in the region”

In the modern United States and Canada, remnants of two major and distinct vaquero traditions remain, known today as the “Texas” tradition and the “Spanish”, “Vaquero“, or “California” tradition. The popular “horse whisperer” style of natural horsemanship was originally developed by practitioners who were predominantly from California and the Northwestern states, clearly combining the attitudes and philosophy of the Californiavaquero with the equipment and outward look of the Texas cowboy. The natural horsemanship movement openly acknowledges much influence of the vaquero tradition.

Below is an image of Classic vaquero style Hackamore equipment. Horsehair Mecates top row, rawhide Bosals in second row with other equipment :

Vaquero is a Spanish word for a herder of cattle. While Vaca is Spanish for Cow- which in turn comes from the Latin word vacca.. During the 16th century, the Conquistadors and other Spanish settlers brought their cattle-raising traditions as well as both horses and domesticated cattle to the Americas, starting with their arrival in what today is Mexico and Florida.  The traditions of Spain were transformed by the geographic, environmental and cultural circumstances of New Spain, which later became Mexico and the Southwestern United States. In turn, the land and people of the Americas also saw dramatic changes due to Spanish influence.

The arrival of horses in the Americas was particularly significant, as equines had been extinct there since the end of the prehistoric ice age. However, horses quickly multiplied in America and became crucial to the success of the Spanish and later settlers from other nations. The earliest horses were originally of Andalusian,Barb and Arabian ancestry, but a number of uniquely American horse breeds developed in North and South America through selective breeding and by natural selection of animals that escaped to the wild and became feral.

The Andalusian has been recognized as an individual breed since the 15th century, and its conformation has changed very little over the centuries. Throughout its history, it has been known for its prowess as a war-horse, and was prized by the nobility.. Below are two examples of its excellency :

The Mustang and other colonial horse breeds are now called “wild”, but in reality are feral horses—descendants of domesticated animals.Mesteñeros were vaqueros that caught, broke and drove Mustangs to market in Mexico and later the American territories of what is now Northern Mexico, Texas, New Mexico andCalifornia. They caught the horses that roamed the Great Plains and the San Joaquin Valley of California, and later in the Great Basin, from the 18th century to the early 20th century.

Breaking a Feral Horse :

The Spanish tradition evolved further in what today is Mexico and the Southwestern United States into the vaquero of northern Mexico and thecharro of the Jalisco and Michoacán regions. Most vaqueros were men of mestizo and Native American origin while most of the hacendados(ranch owners) were ethnically Spanish. As English-speaking traders and settlers expanded westward, English and Spanish traditions, language and culture merged to some degree. Before the Mexican-American War in 1848, New England merchants who traveled by ship to California encountered both hacendados andvaqueros, trading manufactured goods for the hides and tallow produced from vast cattle ranches. American traders along what later became known as the Santa Fe Trail had similar contacts with vaquero life. Starting with these early encounters, the lifestyle and language of the vaquerobegan a transformation which merged with English cultural traditions and produced what became known in American culture as the “cowboy”.

Early Cowboy scenes below :

Distinct regional traditions arose in the United States, particularly in Texas and California, distinguished by local culture, geography and historical patterns of settlement.

 In turn, the California tradition had an influence on cattle handling traditions in Hawaii. The “buckaroo” or “California” tradition, most closely resemblied that of the original vaquero, while the “Texas” tradition melded some Spanish technique with methods from the eastern states, creating separate and unique styles indigenous to the region.

Below is a break down of the differences in Traditions :

California Traditions : The Spanish or Mexican vaquero who worked with young, untrained horses, arrived in the 1700s and flourished in California and bordering territories during the Spanish Colonial period. Settlers from the United States did not enter California until after the Mexican-American War, and most early settlers were miners rather than livestock ranchers, leaving livestock-raising largely to the Spanish and Mexican people who chose to remain in California. The California vaquero or buckaroo, unlike the Texas cowboy, was considered a highly-skilled worker, who usually stayed on the same ranch where he was born or had grown up. He generally married and raised a family. In addition, the geography and climate of much of California was dramatically different from that of Texas, allowing more intensive grazing with less open range, plus cattle in California were marketed primarily at a regional level, without the need (nor, until much later, even the logistical possibility) to be driven hundreds of miles to railroad lines. Thus, a horse- and livestock-handling culture remained in California and the Pacific Northwest that retained a stronger direct Spanish influence than that of Texas. Cowboys of this tradition were dubbed buckaroos by English-speaking settlers. The words “buckaroo” and Vaquero are still used on occasion in the Great Basin, parts of California and, less often, in the Pacific Northwest. Elsewhere, the term “cowboy” is more common. The word “buckaroo” is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a corruption of vaquero, and shows phonological characteristics compatible with that origin. “Buckaroo” officially appeared in American English in 1889 and is believed to have originated as an anglicized version of vaquero, though there is a folk etymology that the term derived from “bucking”, a behavior seen in some young or fresh horses. One author suggested that “buckaroo” comes not from vaquero but from an African word, Efik: bakara, meaning “white man, master, boss.”However, given the strong Hispanic influence and dearth of African-American cowboys in the region, this hypothesis is highly unlikely.

Texas Traditions: The Texas tradition arose from a combination of cultural influences, as well as the need to adapt to the geography and climate of west Texas and, later, the need to conduct long cattle drives to get animals to market. In the early 1800s, the Spanish Crown, and later, independent Mexico, offered empresariogrants in what would later be Texas to non-citizens, such as settlers from the United States. In 1821, Stephen F. Austin and his East Coast comrades became the first Anglo-Saxon community speaking Spanish. Following Texas independence in 1836, even more Americans immigrated into theempresario ranching areas of Texas. Here the settlers were strongly influenced by the Mexicanvaquero culture, borrowing vocabulary and attire from their counterparts, but also retaining some of the livestock-handling traditions and culture of the Eastern United States and Great Britain.

Following the American Civil War, vaquero culture diffused eastward and northward, combining with the cow herding traditions of the eastern United States that evolved as settlers moved west. Other influences developed out of Texas as cattle trails were created to meet up with therailroad lines of Kansas and Nebraska, in addition to expanding ranching opportunities in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Front, east of the Continental Divide. The Texas-style vaquero tended to be an itinerant single male who moved from ranch to ranch.

Take a look into www.pryormustangs.org

The Pryor Mountain Mustang is a substrain of Mustang considered to be genetically unique and one of the few strains of horses verified byDNA analysis to be descended from the original Colonial Spanish Horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. They live on the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range located in the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming in the United States. They are protected by the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Because of the unique genetic makeup of the Pryor Mountains Mustang herd, equine geneticist Dr. E. Gus Cothran concluded in 1992 that “the Pryor herd may be the most significant wild-horse herd remaining in the United States.” Dr. D. Phillip Sponenberg, equine veterinarian at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, agreed, noting, “[These animals] don’t exist anywhere else.

” This herd was the subject of the 1995 documentary filmCloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies and its sequel, the 2003 documentary film Cloud’s Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns.

We hope you enjoyed this post as much as we did… Thanks, Trove General


About trovegeneralstore

TROVE GENERAL EST.2010 Trove General, located in Paoli, Pennsylvania, is a men's and women's clothing and accessories store, with a curated collection of home wares, books and apothecary. Stocking brands that value quality and craftsmanship, Trove merges aesthetic and authenticity with heritage brands such as Belstaff, Pendleton, Woolrich, Filson, Blundstone, and Dubarry, while also aiming to constantly introduce fresh brands and ideas suited for an outdoor lifestyle. Harkening back to the days of the original general store, Trove is rooted in it's location and community.. A place meant to make life simpler and more enjoyable. Welcomed feedback or inquires please email info@trovegeneral.com. 19 Paoli Shopping Center Paoli, PA 19301 Monday-Saturday: 10-5 Sunday: 12-5 P~ 484.320.8626
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