The first cowboys were Mexican vaqueros who herded Andalusian cattle--also called Texas Longhorns--imported by Spanish colonists. It is from these early cowboys that much of the lingo of the trade was acquired. On trail drives buckaroos (vaqueros) wore heavy leather chaps (chaparerras), roped calves with a lariat (la reata), and kept their horses among a herd called a remuda.
For centuries, the south central and northern plains provided habitat for the bison and home for nomadic Indian tribes who hunted the shaggy animals for food, clothing, and shelter. But the nation's rapid post-Civil War western expansion, powered by an unprecedented industrial revolution, led to the slaughter of the bison and increasing confinement of Indians to reservations. The sea of grass that was the unfenced open range drew cattlemen, whose beef could be transported by railroad to teeming eastern markets.