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How long have cowboys been around?

Happy birthday to a true cowboy. To a man who spent his life around horses and participated in all aspects of what it means to be a cowboy... cattle herding, horse training, rodeoing... the works. He is missed and thought of often and fondly, and I couldn't imagine any other Doodle being more fitting today than one about cowboys.

A cowboy is described as an animal herder, usually in charge of the horses and/or cattle, on cattle ranches, especially in the western United States and Canada. The cowboy tradition began in Spain and was subsequently transported into North and South America, where it developed its unique and enduring character. Cowboys were an essential part of the nineteenth century American West, hired to keep a watchful eye over the large roving herds of cattle on the open range.

Today, in addition to ranch work, some cowboys work in and participate in rodeos, while some work exclusively in the rodeo. Cowboys also spawned a rich cultural tradition, made famous throughout the world through Western novels, songs, movies, and serial programs on radio and television.

The Spanish cowboy tradition developed with the hacienda system of medieval Spain. This style of cattle ranching spread throughout much of the Iberian peninsula and was later exported to the Americas. Both regions possessed a dry climate with sparse grass, and thus large herds of cattle required vast amounts of land in order to obtain sufficient forage. The need to cover distances greater than a person on foot could manage gave rise to the development of the horseback-mounted vaquero.

During the sixteenth century, Spanish settlers brought their cattle-raising traditions as well as their horses and cattle to the Americas, starting with their arrival in what today is Mexico and Florida. The traditions of Spain were transformed by the geographic, environmental and cultural circumstances of New Spain, which later became Mexico and the southwestern United States.

The word "cowboy" first appeared in the English language about 1715–25. It appears to be a direct English translation of vaquero, the Spanish term for an individual who managed cattle while mounted on horseback, derived from vaca, meaning "cow." Another English word for a cowboy, buckaroo, is an Anglicization of vaquero.

A main difference between "vaquero" and "cowboy" is that the English term implies youth. Because of the time and physical ability needed to develop necessary skills, the American cow "boy" often began his career as an adolescent, earning wages as soon as he had enough skill to be hired, often as young as 12 or 13. In the United States, a few women also took on the tasks of ranching and learned the necessary skills, though the "cowgirl" did not become widely recognized or acknowledged until the close of the nineteenth century.

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