A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend. A subtype, called a wrangler, specifically tends the horses used to work cattle. In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work for or participate in rodeos. Cowgirls, first defined as such in the late 19th century, had a less-well documented historical role, but in the modern world have established the ability to work at virtually identical tasks and obtained considerable respect for their achievements. There are also cattle handlers in many other parts of the world, particularly South America and Australia, who perform work similar to the cowboy in their respective nations.

The cowboy has deep historic roots tracing back to Spain and the earliest European settlers of the Americas. Over the centuries, differences in terrain, climate and the influence of cattle-handling traditions from multiple cultures created several distinct styles of equipment, clothing and animal handling. As the ever-practical cowboy adapted to the modern world, the cowboy's equipment and techniques also adapted to some degree, though many classic traditions are still preserved today.

Read more about CowboyEtymology and Mainstream Usage, History, Cowgirls, Regional Traditions Within The United States, Canada, Outside North America, Modern Working Cowboys, Rodeo Cowboys, In Popular Culture

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Famous quotes containing the word cowboy:

    I’m a cowboy who never saw a cow.
    Johnny Mercer (1909–1976)

    You know, there’s a cowboy movie where one joker says, “Mighty quiet out there. Too quiet,” he says. Same thing every time; it’s too quiet.
    James Poe, U.S. screenwriter, and Based On Play. Robert Aldrich. Sergeant Costa (Jack Palance)

    During the cattle drives, Texas cowboy music came into national significance. Its practical purpose is well known—it was used primarily to keep the herds quiet at night, for often a ballad sung loudly and continuously enough might prevent a stampede. However, the cowboy also sang because he liked to sing.... In this music of the range and trail is “the grayness of the prairies, the mournful minor note of a Texas norther, and a rhythm that fits the gait of the cowboy’s pony.”
    —Administration in the State of Texa, U.S. public relief program (1935-1943)