Many of the terms
used in reference to cowboys, horses, their tack, and the things
they do are regional, changing depending on where you are from
and many words are derived from Spanish. You may search
for a particular term or browse through the cowboy lore and
its origins. These pages are graphic-rich, so please be
patient while they load.
Click below to go to other pages containing
terms used for:
Cowboy's Personal Gear
& Tack Glossary
THE PEOPLE & THE LAND
from the Spanish "vaquero". (In Spanish, the letters
b and v are both pronounced "b."
A cowboy from the Great Basin country of northern
Nevada, southern Idaho, northeast California and southeastern
Oregon. Often wear flat hats, chinks, and ride
A-fork saddles with post horns and bucking rolls.
Traditionally their gear displays lots of silver and
is fancier than some other areas of the country.
Buckaroo gear and style of handling horses is becoming
quite popular in other parts of the country and the
CHARRO: Gentleman rider of
Mexico. Charros often exhibit a very flashy style
of riding and use ornate dress and gear. Jalisco
and Guerrero are the main states in Mexico where the
charro tradition originated.
A gathering of charros combining skilled riding,
roping, and bull tailing, somewhat similar to a rodeo
in the United States.
or BIG CIRCLE RIDERS:
Cowboys start at a point designated
by the cowboss, ride widely-separated, gather the cattle,
and push them to the holding or
where the cattle will be worked.
Spanish term for male
cook or chuck wagon cook.
WAGON COOK: also
sometimes called "coosie", or "cookie."
On the old time cattle drives, the cook
was sometimes an aging cowboy hired for his ability
to drive a wagon more than his cooking skills. He was
in charge of the wagon and everything
related to it. The cook was paid more than the
other hands because the success of the camp and the
drive depended greatly on him. A cowhand earned
about a dollar a day and the cook made twice that.
Ranch cooks today still command a great deal of respect
and many expect a certain strict etiquette in their
LITTLE MARY: Cooks
helper-chops wood, peels potatoes, does dishes,
and other chores around the chuckwagon.
Food, in Spanish:
In charge of the cattle
operation on a ranch. They choose where the cowboys
will ride and hire and fire cowboys. Answer to
the general manager.
A person, in
the western United States, who tends cattle and
performs many of their duties on horseback.
Our friend, artist and cowboy
Denise Smith says, "Snow....we call it the 'WHITE
COWBOY' who comes and you can find the rest of the
remnants in the mountains....it also brings them
home .... most of the time!!!"
We prefer the term female
cowboy and the term cowboy, as used in this site, refers
to both genders.
A ranch owner that makes a living
Also called Buckaroo, Cow Poke, Waddie, Cowboy,
and in Spanish a "Vaquero". Terms for cowboy vary
with the region. The term cow puncher or
"puncher" is more commonly used in the southwest.
Term commonly used in the 1870s and 80s for a working
cowboy engaged in trailing longhorns to market or a
participating in a charraeada as a drill team, riding
person with limited knowledge of livestock and cowboy
ways. Usually used as a derogatory term.
A female dog -
term used especially in the south.
or JIGGER BOSS:
Second in command to the
buckaroo boss. Often ropes the buckaroos' horses
for the day.
LEAD RIDERS: Two cowboys
that ride on each side of the 'lead steers' in a trail
herd. They push the cattle in the general direction
they want the herd to move.
Cowboy following the herd pushing
NIGHT HAWK, NIGHT HERDER
: Cowboy that constantly rides
around the cattle herd at night.
used long ago to refer to someone on the "dodge."
NIGHT WRANGLER :
A cowboy that herds and cares for
the saddle horses during the night.
A horse breaker
Cowboy who rides in front of a
herd and provides something for the animals to follow.
Cowboys riding along the sides
of the herd keeping it bunched.
(pronounced fork-ed - like
the name Ed)
Adjective applied to a Cowboy that
can really ride a bronc well.
Paiute word for cloud, referring
to a dense winter fog containing frozen particles, formed
in valleys in Western United States. Also
called white cloud, white death or death fog.
Formed when humidity is 100% and temperature falls
below freezing(32° F.) The ice crystals will then
settle onto surfaces, forming beautiful ice crystal
sculptures. Beautiful but dangerous.
adaptation of the Paiute/Shoshone word meaning "cloud"
RANGE BOSS: Manager
of a cow outfit out on the range.
Top cowhand, sometimes shortened to "ranny."
A representative. In the old days, neighboring
ranches would pasture in ranges without fences as we
know them today. During roundup time, representatives
from neighboring ranches would attend the roundup.
A rep with his own string of horses would trail to the
range and ride and work with the roundup crew.
When the cattle were gathered, those with his ranch's
brand would be cut out and the rep would trail them
home along with his saddle and pack horses.
Hired man that does the mechanical,
irrigating, and feeding chores on a ranch--all the non-horseback
work. One of the "ranch crew." May be a
regional term common to the Great Basin.
A horse or cattle thief.
FOR THE ELEPHANT"
going over the next hill, looking
for something that is never there. Sums up the
philosophy of many cowboys who travel from ranch to
ranch always looking for new horses to ride and new
country to explore. Like a friend said,
"Cowboys are always going somewhere."
Drawed out of a bronc riding (not
allowed to compete) or a horse that has been removed
from a race due to an injury or something similar.
be applied to cowboys, cattle, or horses--Pulled into
a shady spot to rest.
SHADOW RIDING: A
cowboy that rides along, admiring his own gear and his
SWING RIDERS: Are the cowboys
that keep the main body of the trail herd together and
keep them moving.
TAIL RIDERS: also "DRAG
RIDERS" Cowboys that follow the trail herd and keep
the cows and young calves moving.
A cowboy that stands beside the branding-fire at
a round-up and makes a tally mark for each animal branded,
ear-marked, and vaccinated, showing to whom it
belongs. A tally-man can also count
animals out a gate and keep track of them.
TIE-MAN: A cowboy roper that ties the end of
his rope to his saddle horn while roping horses or cattle.
Regional roping technique used mainly in Texas, some
in New Mexico & Arizona.
Spanish term for a man who takes
care of cattle. Mexican cowboy. From the
Spanish word "vacca" --meaning cow.
Another term for cowboy, a hired man, in the western
United States, who tends cattle and performs many of
his duties on horseback.
The term “waddy”
is an old term that no one seems to be able to actually
put their finger on the exact origin. It is more
common in the Midwest and Southwest.
Saddlemaker Mike Brennan did research with these
results. "It originally was a very derogatory
term and meant a thief or rustler, then evolved
gradually into a lower class “hired man on horseback”,
and finally came to mean a top hand. My grandfather
carried the nickname “Waddy” from the time he was
a little sprout until the day he died, in fact most
people didn’t even know his real name. Apparently
both spellings of the term “waddie” as in Waddie
Mitchell, were and are correct with some sources
listing waddy as preferred, and some listing waddie
as preferred. "
chuck and a bedroll wagon goes out with the cowboys
when they work cattle on the range for several months
at a time, especially in the spring and fall.
a vehicle that hauls the grub and supplies to line
A livestock herder, especially of saddle horses.