Buckaroos in Paradise

Jeannie Profile Paradise SignHello everyone! I’m Jeannie Watt and I’m thrilled to be the newest filly at Petticoats & Pistols! I write western romance for Harlequin and Tule Publishing and I live in Paradise. Literally.

I know of four Paradise Valleys in the west. My Paradise Valley is in northern Nevada, and it’s a place where a kid really can grow up to be a cowboy (if his mama lets him, of course). Interestingly, cowboys in northern Nevada are not generally called cowboys. Instead they are called buckaroos, from the Spanish word vaquero.

Vaqueros started migrating to the Great Basin  from California and northern Mexico in the mid-1800s to do herd work for both family and corporate ranches. They brought with them their own distinctive style of dress and working gear, as well as their own lexicon, which is still in use today.

Modern day buckaroos may choose to dress like any other cowboy in Wranglers, a western shirt, and a belt with a giant buckle, but many working buckaroos choose to wear the traditional buckaroo garb.

 The guy in the middle is my neighbor.

They favor flat hats, short chaps called chinks, white shirts, either a vest (often harvested from a thrift store men’s suit) or a wool sweater and a large silk scarf.  They often sport a big Sam Elliot type mustache. (Gotta love a Sam Elliot anything—right?)

A buckaroo getting ready to gather cattle. [Photo credit–Mary Williams Hyde]
They use mecates (ropes made from twisted mane hair) for reins. The mecate is attached to the bit with leather pieces called slobber straps. The saddles often have high cantles (backs) and slick forks. Instead of a rope, they may have a rawhide riata (a gut line).


buckaroo horse
This shows a horse with a mecate attached to slobber straps. The mecate forms both the rein and the lead rope. There’s a riata tied to the saddle and the stirrups are metal oxbows. The cantle of the saddle is high. [Photo credit–Mary Williams Hyde]
They also tie their horse’s tails in a unique knot to keep them out of the dirt…or maybe just because it looks cool.

Now that I’ve talked up buckaroos, I have to confess that I love cowboys, no matter what. I don’t care if they’re called buckaroos,  cowpunchers, or cowhands. Just gimme a guy with boots, chaps and a cowboy hat. I’ll take care of the rest.

Do have regional cowboy trends in your area? Or are you a cowboy generalist as I am?

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Jeannie Watt raises cattle in Montana and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

20 thoughts on “Buckaroos in Paradise”

  1. I never gave this any thought. But I bet we have similar traditions here since I live in Texas and I’m sure lots of vaquero stopped off here before headed further. I didn’t know the term buckaroo came from vaquero. Very interesting post.

  2. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Jeannie. Your post is fascinating–I learned a lot. The macate looks much more decorative than using a leather rein and lead strap. I like it! I feel a bit sorry for the horse with its tail tied up like that. I would think flies would be a constant nuisance and the horse would not be able to swish them away.

    I have no idea what the cowboy trends are here on the Il/WI area. We have mostly farmers here, not ranchers. And dairy cattle…:-)

    • Thank you for the welcome, Kathryn. It’s so great to be here! Funny thing about the tail knot–the buckaroos have shoo-flys as part of their traditional gear and perhaps this is why. A shoo fly is a large horsehair tassel that hangs from the cinch, and/or a smaller tassel that hangs from the throat latch. The purpose is, of course, to shoo away flies.

  3. Jeannie – So excited to have you with us at P&P! Love those pictures! Thanks for sharing that terminology with us. I’ve heard of some of that but I learned a few new things as well. 🙂 Slobber straps – can’t get much more descriptive than that!

    • Hi Karen–It’s great to be here! Slobber straps are very descriptive. And they run the gamut from being pieces of old leather cut with a knife to fancy (and expensive) hand-carved items.

  4. Welcome, Jeannie! I’ve been to Nevada a bunch, niece lives in Sparks. I always think the terrain is very cowboy-esque. I live on the coast 90 minutes north of Los Angeles and we’re still kinda rural. We do have some ranches and lots of strawberries. I volunteer at a horse rescue about 20 miles up into the hills. It’s definitely horse country there. So I can kinda get my wild-west on. I love your pictures and this is a wonderfully informative post. Thanks.

  5. Hi Jeannie… Welcome to the blog. We’re so happy to have you here! Love all the reminders of the Spanish cowboy and all. Great photos too. Here in CA, near Hollywood, we have some real cowboys, but way more wannabes. Ha!

  6. Welcome to the P&P Jeannie, I love cowboy no matter how they come. There are not many cowboys here where I live but I get to visit them in books.

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