Cowboys have always been an iconic image of the untamed west. From cartoons to movies, cowboys have been portrayed in all shapes, sizes, sex and colors. But do you really know what or who the cowboy really is? The American cowboy originally came from Mexico and was known as a Vaquero. As early as the 1500s when Spaniards began exploring the America's, they began importing horses and raising livestock. Well, someone had to tend to the herds. That someone was the cowboy. These fearless men were known for their impeccable riding and roping abilities. Cowboys played an essential role in making America what it is today. From the late 1700's to mid to late 1800's, they were the ones moving the cattle across the country as people began to settle. By the mid 1900's, many cowboys had given up the solitary cowboy lifestyle and were hired on permanently to working ranches.
Work and job duties varied for cowboys. Many were hired on to drive cattle, but there were others that had a longer list of responsibilities. If a cowboy was hired on by ranch, they usually were expected to help with day to day chores and tasks. These responsibilities included fence work or repair, tending to other animals such as horses, pigs and sheep, barn repair, hay baling and much more. The cowboys weren't paid a fortune for their hard work, but many of them were given room and board as part of compensation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2003 there were about 9,730 workers in the category “support activities for animal production,” which included cowboys. These workers made an average of $19,340 per year.
While opportunities may have shifted, the American cowboy is still very much a part of life in the American West.