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Texas Ranch House -- Talk Like a Vaquero

Many of the ranching terms used today are derived from Spanish, Mexican and indigenous words. These words come from the animals and tack of the cowboy trade, along with cultural items such as food and clothing. Below are common words or phrases, along with audio clips illustrating correct pronunciation.

In Texas, cowboys may use "armas", large leather flaps attached to the saddle, to cover their legs and protect them from the brush, rather than leggings or chaps.


An "arroyo" is a stream or creek. It may also be the dry channel made by a stream, which may be referred to as an "arroyo seco."

"Bota" is Spanish for riding boot.

A "bodgea" is a tack room or work shed where saddles and tools are kept and cowboys repair equipment.

"Caballo" is the Spanish term for horse. "Caballero," from the Spanish knight, means horseman or gentleman.

"Cabrito" is a young kid goat that is still nursing and has not grazed on grain or grass. It is also a popular dish, kid-goat stew.

"Carne seca" is dry meat, or jerky. The "carne" is beef that has been sliced into strips, salted and dried in the sun.


"Cenizo" is a wild silverleaf bush used in northern Mexico and Texas as a home remedy to reduce fever. Also known as Texas sage, its leaves have a salty flavor.

"Cocinero" is Spanish for cook and the word spawned many cowboy variations on the range, including cookie and coosie.


"Segundo" is second in Spanish. On the ranch, "el segundo" is the second in command and the assistant trail boss. Head "vaquero," or cowboy, is an alternative term.


"Estampido," which means explosion or bang, became the word stampede that describes a sudden or panicked rush of people or animals.


"Hacienda" is the ranch owner's homestead.


"El jefe" is the supervisor or boss.


"Llano" as an adjective means level or flat. As a noun it is a broad flat plain or arid prairie without trees, "llanos" in the plural form.


"Mezquite" is spiny Southwestern hardwood tree or shrub with white flowers. Hungry cattle may eat the fruit of the "mezquite," a pulpy bean high in grape sugar.


"Mochila" in Spanish means knapsack. On the ranch, a "mochila" means a cover for the saddle, made of leather or cloth. Slots in the "mochila" allowed it to be slipped over the horn in front and the cantle in back, making the saddle more comfortable for long rides.


¿Quién sabe? is Spanish for "Who knows?" ¿Sabes? is a question "You know?" Anglo cowboys more frequently would use the term savvy to indicate understanding or knowhow.


A "reata" is a rawhide or leather rope. The term lariat from "la reata" is also commonly used in Texas.


"Remuda" means change or replacement. Cowboys on the ranch use several different horses on the job, rotating their horses depending on the task at hand. The "remuda" is the term describing the collection of all of the outfit's horses, and it is overseen by the wrangler.


The "sombrero," from the Spanish "sombra" or shade, is a Mexican hat with a wide brim, usually made from straw but some times from felt.


"Tejano" is Spanish for Texan, or someone from "Tejas." Initially, "Tejano" was used to indicate someone of Mexican descent who was born in Texas, but it now is used more widely to describe Texans.


"Vaca" is the cow in cowboy (see vaquero).


From this Spanish word meaning "Let's go!" comes the cowboy term vamoose.


"Vaquero" is the name for a Mexican cowboy and the likely term that evolved into the Anglo word for cowboy, "buckaroo."


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