No other occupation in American history has captivated the imagination of the nation quite like that of the American cowboy.
The American cowboy has Spanish roots that trace back to the vaquero, or herder of cattle. This tradition of cattle herding moved north from Mexico in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries eventually forming a culture of its own in Texas and California. It was not until the arrival of English speakers in the 1840s that the idea of the American cowboy took root. Following the Civil War new markets in the east, proliferation of the railroads, and open range ranching led to immense growth of the cattle industry. As the number of cowboys grew so did the public's fascination with the idea of the "Wild West" and cowboy culture. Fueled by dime novels, traveling Wild West shows, and eventually motion pictures, the image of the cowboy became ingrained in our popular culture.