The other day, someone described some of our wranglers as ‘buckaroos’. “What the heck is a buckaroo?” I asked, having never heard the term.
Well, here’s the thing - in the United States, there are two main types of cowboys - the Texan-style ‘cowpunchers’, and the Californian tradition of ‘buckaroos’. Both have distinctive styles and methods of horsemanship - the Texan tradition tends to be more rough and ready, rope ‘em and break ‘em and ride ‘em hard; while the buckaroo has a gentler, more skilled way of educating a horse. The buckaroo is also less itinerant than a cowpuncher, a highly valued employee who tends to stay on the one ranch rather than moving around seasonally.
The term ‘buckaroo’ is said to be an Anglicization of the Spanish word vaquero - literally, a boy that tends cows, with vaca meaning cow. Of course, the roots of all North American cowboys goes back to the Spanish, with the Conquistadors bringing horses to the New World as well as riding traditions; this developed into the two Mexican styles of cowboys, differentiated by class and money: vaqueros - the ranch hands who worked with young and untrained horses - and charros, the ranch owners who finessed the art of riding and showmanship.
While the Mexican vaquero tradition is the root of both the Texan and Californian traditions, the geography of the two regions tended to influence riding styles, with Texas more about long cattle drives and California with less open range.
According to Paradise Ranch's head wrangler Dylan - a stylish buckaroo is ever there was one - the term is just a label. “It’s more about measured horsemanship,” he said. “We’ll take time to train a horse, rather than just throw a saddle on it and break it rough.”
A buckaroo also has a cooler look (in my opinion!) than the regular cowboy; flat hats, vest, neck scarf, fringed chaps. And the obligatory handlebar moustache, it seems.
As for Dylan, he says he’s developed his own style. “I’m not really anything, I wear what I like. I used to be offended by people trying to emulate my look - but I guess imitation is the greatest form of flattery.”
We like your style, Dylan. Looking good.