Cowboy – David Murdock (ed.) (1993)


I happened to pick this title up from a display at the library, and found out that this was a fascinating way to spend last Sunday afternoon. The book is part of an ongoing DK series called “Eyewitness Books” and each title takes a particular subject (e.g. cowboys, Vikings, books, weather etc.) and leads the reader through an overview of that subject using lots of high quality and well curated photographs and explanatory text. It’s mostly photographs though, and by doing this (and as the aim of the whole series), it feels rather as though you’re walking through a museum looking at all the different pieces that make up the exhibit.

It’s not text-heavy, but by looking closely at the photographs (as you would the displays at a museum), by the time you’ve read the book, you feel as though you have a much better understanding of whatever the topic was (in this case, cowboys). It’s really great.


An example of a Stetson cowboy hat.

Here’s some of what I learned about the world of the cowboy from the last reading:

There are variations of cowboys all over the world who have been doing this type of job for decades (and longer):

  • France has gardian in the southern provinces
  • Hungary has the csikosok
  • North African countries have had similar cowboys with different names
  • The Romans had buteri
  • 1500’s Spain had vaqueros (cowboys) and churros (the people who actually owned the land)
  • Argentina has the gaucho
  • Venezuela has the llanero
  • Chile has the huaso

Which of course makes perfect sense, but this was new information to me. It’s obvious now, of course.

Other pearls of knowledge:


Desperate Dan (English version of cowboy character and the one I grew up with…)

  • Stetson hats (which a lot of cowboys are famous for wearing) was started by John B. Stetson who was an Englishman who came to Colorado as a gold prospector and noticed the need for appropriate hatwear.
  • The name Mustang (wrt horse) comes from the Spanish mestena which refers to “horse herd”. Originally, the herds of horses were wild on the Southern Plains and the Conquistadores harnessed them to help them as they came into new territory.
  • The quarter horse is so named for its really fast speed at the quarter-mile. Huh. I had no idea about this as I had been thinking that the quarter horse name referred to its breeding stock (i.e. that the horse was 25% of this breed, 25% of another breed etc.)
  • And then, I got reminded of the comic character Desperate Dan who was also eating his way through Cactusville… (He was a character in the British children’s comic magazine called The Dandy and was the world’s strongest man who shaved with a blowtorch as his facial hair was so tough. He could also lift a cow with one hand…)

So I found this really interesting on so many levels that now I am searching for more of these Eyewitness Books as they are a great introduction to big subjects… Loved it.

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