The Truth about Cowboy Types

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For most Americans in this age, the word “cowboy” will call to mind iconic images of a horseman wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a belt of bullets, and a flannel shirt; he might be guiding his herd lazily along grassy plains, singing folk songs around a campfire with his companions under a starry sky, riding off with a beautiful ranch girl into an iconic sunset backdrop, or even wearing a mask and enforcing vigilante justice in a small town terrorized by hardened western thugs or hostile Native Americans. These clichés are drawn mostly from the hundreds of movies and television productions that claim the title “Western”. This cinematic conception of the cowboy was a personification of the American spirit of rugged individualism and intrepid pioneering but it is largely only the result of Hollywood westerns of the 20th century, and not consistent with the actual reality of cowboy life. While there were many different types of cowboys spread across the Americas with drastically different lifestyles, mannerisms, reputations, and backgrounds, by far the most easily recognized are the Anglo cowboys of the American West, and the Mexican vaqueros. As the eastern cattle herding practices spread further west, and Mexican vaqueros moved north, they met in the American western frontier; “Moving further west to the semi-arid plains, the habits and techniques of southeastern Anglo cowboys changed substantially under the influence of Mexico’s vaqueros” (Slatta 18). Though from opposite
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