The twenty years of the Wild West came to an end when the great railroads were built to the Pacific Ocean. The cowboys’ job, of driving great herds of cattle to the railhead towns in Kansas and Wyoming, was no longer needed. Yet, although the railroad changed the cowboys’ job forever, the cowboys’ story lives on even today. Cattle were the bedrock upon which the American cowboys’ story was built. Cattle were not found in the Americas until the Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519. Over the years many Spanish bulls and cows escaped into the wild. They lived in the forests and grasslands of the American West, especially in Texas. Americans who arrived in Texas in the early 1820s brought with them their European cattle. These cattle were gentler than the old Spanish breed. As these European cattle escaped, a crossing of the two breeds of cattle occurred. The offspring became known as the Texas Longhorn. Spanish cattle were the seed stock for the American cattle industry; so too were the Spanish cowboys. They were the first cowboys in the Americas. They were called Vaqueros (va-cáre-os). It is from these Spanish, and later Mexican, cowboys that the Americans learned how to care for large herds of cattle. Most of the gear and many of the words used by American cowboys have their beginnings with the cowboys of Spain and Mexico. American cowboys called their ropes “lariats.” Lariat was the American cowboys’ way of pronouncing the Spanish word for the rope, “la reata.” In fact, the American cowboy was often called a “buckaroo.” This was the Americans’ way of pronouncing the Spanish word “vaquero.” Vaqueros worked in the Spanish missions of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Their jobs included chasing cattle out of the brush for branding. They had to kill the cattle at butchering time, skinning and drying the hides for shipment back to Spain. The Texas Longhorn was the “bedrock” of the American cattle industry after the Civil War. There were hundreds of thousands of wild longhorns along the southern border between Texas and Mexico. It was the job of the cowboy to find the wild longhorns and drive them to the railroads located during this time in places like Dodge City, Kansas. Spanish vaquero la reata chaparrejos rancho ranchero English buckaroo lariat chaps ranch rancher dar la vuelta dally Many cowboy words came from the Spanish language. Chapter 8 • Territorial Growth  85