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
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to go to other pages containing terms used for:
Saddles and Tack
Cattle Terms, a glossary
THE PEOPLE and THE LAND
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 world.
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
A gathering of charros combining skilled riding, roping, and
bull tailing, somewhat similar to a rodeo in the United States.
CIRCLE 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
rodear grounds where the
cattle will be worked.
Spanish term for male cook or chuck
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 vicinity.
HOODLUM OR LITTLE MARY:
Cooks helper-chops wood, peels potatoes, does dishes, and
other chores around the chuckwagon.
Food, in Spanish: Comida
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.
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!!!"
COWGIRL: We prefer the term
female cowboy and the term cowboy, as used in this site, refers
to both genders.
COWMAN: A ranch
owner that makes a living raising cattle.
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 new range.
in a charraeada as a drill team, riding sidesaddle.
A person with
limited knowledge of livestock and cowboy ways. Usually used
as a derogatory term.
A female dog - term used especially
in the south.
JIGGER or JIGGER
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 the stragglers.
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.
PEELER: A horse
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.
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.
of the Paiute/Shoshone word meaning "cloud" (payinappih).
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
Can 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 own shadow.
Are the cowboys that ride the sides of the main body of the
trail herd keeping them together and keeping them moving.
TAIL RIDERS: also "DRAG RIDERS" Cowboys that follow
the trail herd and keep the cows and young calves moving.
TALLY-MAN: 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
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
Spanish term for a man who takes care of cattle.
Mexican cowboy. From the Spanish word "vacca" --meaning
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 camps.
A livestock herder, especially of saddle horses.