Not long after the Spanish arrived in the Americas, (right around 1519) they got busy building ranches to raise cattle and other livestock. The ranchers imported horses from Spain to work these ranches, and the rest is history.
Mexico’s native cowboys were called vaqueros. The word comes from the Spanish word vaca (cow). Yeah, cowboys.

Vaqueros were known for their superior roping, riding and herding skills, so what rancher wouldn’t hire them on? They were an excellent choice for tending their livestock.
Eventually, ranching made its way to present-day Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico (we’re talking around 1700) and as far south as Argentina. And in 1769, about the time of the California missions, their livestock practices were introduced to more areas in the West.

Settlers migrating to the West adopted aspects of the vaquero culture, including their clothing style and cattle-driving methods.
Cowboys came from diverse backgrounds and included African-Americans, Native Americans, Mexicans, and settlers from the eastern United States and Europe.

By the time Vaqueros became a part of Texas ranching, they had been herding and driving cattle and wild horses for hundreds of years. They were so renowned for their skills that a rancher named Richard King traveled to Mexico in 1854 to recruit entire vaquero families to manage his herds. King knew these Mexican cowboys knew what to do with horses and cattle much better than he did. Seasoned vaqueros could stop a horse in its tracks or send it into a flat-out gallop with the slightest sway of the reins. The cowboys understood the social structure of cattle herds so well that they knew just where to look for the hiding strays. Their roping, riding, and ranching knowledge was unsurpassed.

My sister attended a vaquero horse clinic recently and found the “vaquero way” as she called it fascinating, and wants to learn more. When we think of cowboys, we automatically think of all those wonderful heroes we read in our favorite novels or have seen on TV. We forget about the vaqueros and how long they’ve been around.

Have you ever heard of vaqueros? If so, was it from a book, a movie, television? Some other sources? After listening to my sister talk about the clinic she attended I decided to learn more myself and share it. I might even attend the next clinic she goes to!


Website | + posts

Kit Morgan is the author of over 100 books of historical and contemporary western romance! Her stories are fun, sweet stories full of love, laughter, and just a little bit of mayhem! Kit creates her stories in her little log cabin in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. An avid reader and knitter, when not writing, she can be found with either a book or a pair of knitting needles in her hands! Oh, and the occasional smidge of chocolate!

25 thoughts on “Vaqueros!”

  1. Good morning Kit- I grew up on Texas and so I heard of vaqueros from history class. What a great blog if history you shared with us all.

  2. YES have heard of them from the 3 years of Spanish in High School – King would be from King Ranch too?? Wonderful, information blog today!

  3. Yes I’ve heard of them. Thank you for the amazing pictures you posted. What history we have to learn about and be thankful for! So enjoyed your blog today. Thank you!

  4. Hi, Kit. Growing up in New Mexico, I heard of the Vaqueros all of my life. But, I’ve never seen them in action other than at an occasional rodeo. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Great research, Kit. So few people know that most of the way cowboys work their stock is taken straight from vaqueros. I believe a lot of it has to do with the landscape, as the New World Southwest is so similar to Spain, as opposed to how cattle were cared for in more northern climes. But that’s just my observation. Loved your post!

  6. Good afternoon! My daddy was a cattle broker and dealt cattle in the United States and Mexico so yes I’m very familiar with Vaqueros! I’ve seen them do some amazing horse work and seen then in action at festivals, rodeos and even at parties and feedlots in Mexico. It is amazing to see some of the things they do and they make it appear effortless. I’d go to one of those clinics if I had the opportunity!!

  7. I don ‘t remember when I first learned about vaqueros, probably grade school or some informational tv program. I do know that there are occasionally Mexican rodeos here in the Columbia Basin (WA & OR) but I have never been to one.

  8. Hi yes, I have heard of vaqueros my whole life. I was born in Texas and I was raised in New Mexico. Actually a Vaquero is a Cowboy in English, but they do have Vaquero rodeos.

  9. I knew a bit about vaqueros already, but you filled in the timeline very nicely. It would be fun going to vaquero school and then to cowboy school to see how they are different and how they are similar.

Comments are closed.