Cowboy Term Dictionary

First posted Jun 10, 2006
Last update Jun 12, 2010

  • Arm Jerker (Rodeo term) A really stout animal that bucks with a lot of power.
  • Arroyo A brook, a small stream or its dry bed
  • Ball Out (Rodeo term) A horse that comes straight up on hind legs when coming out of the cute and then begins bucking.
  • Bandana A cloth made of silk or cotton, usually worn around the neck to protect against winds, rain, and sunburn.
  • Bedroll The cowboy's bed, made up of blankets and quilts wrapped up in a tarp, which fastens with hooks or snaps on the sides. The bedroll also serves as the cowboy's suitcase. Also called a Hot Roll.
  • Blind leather blindfold used when saddling an unruly horse
  • Broke Horse A horse that has been given some education is called a broke horse; a green-broke horse is partially trained; a well-broke horse is well-trained.
  • Boom Town A town that grew up rapidly, usually a mining town or a town where a cattle trail met a railroad line.
  • Branding Marking cattle or horses with a hot iron that imprints the symbol of the owner on the animal's hide.
  • Bronco A wild horse.
  • Bronc Buster A cowboy who had special skill in taming (or breaking) wild horses to be ridden.
  • Cattle Drive The movement of a herd of cattle from ranches and grazing lands to the railroad lines for shipment to meat-packing plants farther east.
  • Cavy A herd of horses, another term (from the 1940s and 1950s) for remuda
  • Chaparral A dense thicket of shrubs and small trees
  • Chaparreros Leather leggings with wide flaps; eventually the word was shortened to "chaps"
  • Chaps Long leather leggings worn by cowboys over their pants for protection against cactus and other range plants.
  • Chinch The strap which goes around the horses belly to hold the saddle on.
  • Chinks Short chaps, usually fringed & stopping just below the knee.
  • Chinook Warm, dry wind that originates on the leeward slopes of mountains, usually in the early spring.
  • Chuck Wagon The cooking and supply wagon used by ranch cooks during roundups and cattle drives. Named for Charles Goodnight, an early cattle baron, who invented the first chuck wagon.
  • Clove Hitch A knot commonly used by cowboys to tie a rope or lariat to a post.
  • Coosie Nickname for the cook, an Americanization of the Spanish word cocinero meaning cook. Also known as the Cocinero. More
  • Concha Silver or metal ornament usually found on tack. Sometimes used to hold parts together like a nut and bolt.
  • Cow Horse Horse who has the ability to anticipate the behavior of cattle. A good cow horse was worth a great deal of money to a cowboy or cattle ranch.
  • Crow Hop Stiff legged jumps by a horse. Sometimes a bucking bronco who is no longer trying hard to buck a cowboy off will only crow hop. A crow hop can also happen when a horse is trying to stop forward motion and the rider is handling the rains incorrectly. Also known as Frog walking
  • Cutting Horse A ranch horse specially trained to single out (or "cut") a steer from a herd.
  • Dally Wrap taken around the saddle horn with the tail end of a lariat rope.
  • Day Heard Shift The shift where cowboys ride to watch over the herd during the daytime. (also see Night Rider)
  • Dragger or Trotter (Rodeo term) A steer that hangs his head and doesn't run after being roped, many times trotting or stopping.
  • Earmark Distinctive cut in a cows ear to show ownership.
  • Fading (Rodeo term) A bull that spins and slowly gains ground in the direction he is spinning.
  • Fanning (Rodeo term) Cowboys remove their hats and wave them across the animal after a ride. May be considered an insult to the stock contractor as the animal may be too easy to ride.
  • Filly A young female horse or mare.
  • Floating (Rodeo term) A technique sometimes used by saddle bronc riders in which, to the crowd, they appear to be bucked off at every jump.
  • Freight Trained (Rodeo term) Being run over by an animal that is traveling at top speed.
  • Gelding Castrated male horse
  • Grub Line Rider A kind of cowboy pan handler who hangs around a cow camp for free food until he is kicked out then proceeds to find another camp and starts over.
  • Half-Hitch A knot often used by cowboys to tie a lariat to the saddle horn.
  • Hat Bender (Rodeo term) A horse or bull that does not buck at all, just runs around.
  • Hazin to move cattle or horses slowly along in the direction you want them to go.
  • Hen skin bedding A cover stuffed with feathers.
  • Hobbles Restraints that fasten around a horse's front legs below the ankle, to keep him from running off while the cowboy is out of the saddle. Most commonly used during the night when the cowboy was on the open range.
  • Hot roll The cowboy's bedroll
  • Jerky Strips of dried meat that could be stored for long periods.
  • Kack A piticular type of saddle with a small horn and a double cinch
  • Lariat A braided rope used by cowboys.
  • Lasso A lariat tied with a special knot so that the lariat could be tightened when thrown over the head of a steer or horse.
  • Maguey A type of rope made from the fibers of the maguey plant. Most early cowboys preferred rawhide or hemp ropes, however many modern trick ropers use maguey ropes because they are very flexible.
  • Mustang A wild horse, or a specific breed of horse.
  • Nighthawk The cowboy who watches over the remuda of horses during the night
  • Night Rider Cowboy who rides during the night to watch over the herd (also see Day Heard Shift)
  • Outlaw A horse that cannot be broke or ridden.
  • Poke Pouch or bag used by cowboys to carry small personal items.
  • Pulling Leather Holding onto the saddle horn to keep from getting thrown when a horse is bucking. Also known as Gabbing the apple.
  • Quirt A weighted, short-handled whip made of braided rawhide or leather.
  • Range An open area of grassland where cattle and horses grazed.
  • Rawhide The untanned cattle skin; a skin that has not been processed to make leather.
  • Remuda The group of saddle horses found in a cow camp. These are the horses the cowboys ride when taking care of the herd.
  • Riding Drag The cowboys who rode at the rear of the heard while on a cattle drive
  • Rodeo A sporting event where cowboys display their skill in riding bucking broncos and roping cattle. The rodeo as a sport began in the 1870s and remains popular today.
  • Rollin' your Bull To roll your Bull Durham cigarettes
  • Roundup The bringing together of a ranch's cattle for branding or to start a cattle drive.
  • Seeing Daylight (Rodeo term) The rider comes far enough off the horse that daylight is seen between him and the animal.
  • Sidelining (old cowboy term) using a set of hobbles between the front and back leg on the same side. This prevents the horse from loping away as is possible with normal hobbles.
  • Spurs Worn on the back of the boot, spurs are made up of heel band, shank, and rowel, the spur is a tool used to persuade but not injure, the horse.
  • Stampede A wild and uncontrollable run by a herd of spooked cattle or horses.
  • Suicide Wrap (Rodeo term) A particular wrap bull riders take when wrapping the bull rope around their hand. It is very difficult to get out of a suicide wrap if the cowboy falls off the animal. This wrap is against the rules in most modern rodeos.
  • Sunfishing When a bucking horse twists his body in the shape of a crescent
  • Tapaderas Leather coverings over the stirrup; called "taps"
  • Tenderfoot A newcomer to the cowboy life; also called a greenhorn.
  • Vaquero A Mexican cowboy
  • Waddie A term meaning cowboy
  • Well (Rodeo term) The center of the spin. Riders may get into the well and not be able to regain their balance. A very dangerous area for riders to dismount into.
  • Wrangler The person on a ranch or cattle drive who took care of the horses.