The myth of the cowboy

“Today, populations of wild horse-riders and herdsmen exist in a large number of regions all round the world. Some of them are strictly analogous to cowboys, such as gauchos on the plains of the southern cone of Latin America; the llaneros on the plains of Colombia and Venezuela; possibly the vaqueiros of the Brazilian north-east; certainly the Mexican vaqueros from whom indeed, as everyone knows, both the costume of the modern cowboy myth and most of the vocabulary of the cowboy’s trade are directly derived: mustang, lasso, lariat, sombrero, chaps (chaparro), a cinch, bronco. There are similar populations in Europe, such as the csikos on the Hungarian plain, or puszta, the Andalusian horsemen in the cattle-raising zone whose flamboyant behaviour probably gave the earliest meaning of the word “flamenco”, and the various Cossack communities of the south Russian and Ukrainian plains.

In the 16th century there were the exact equivalents of the Chisholm trail leading from the Hungarian plains to the market cities of Augsburg, Nuremberg or Venice. And I do not have to tell you about the great Australian outback, which is essentially ranching country, though for sheep more than cattle.”

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