cowboys, in American history. 1 Tory marauders, adherents to the British cause in the American Revolution, who fought in the contested area of Westchester co., N.Y. Their opposite numbers, who favored the Revolutionary cause and who operated in the same territory at the same period, were called skinners. 2 Mounted men employed as herders on cattle ranches of the American West. They were more important and picturesque in the days before the vast ranches were fenced, when their duties consisted of driving cattle to pasture and water, branding them at the roundup, protecting them from wild animals and thieves, and driving them to the shipping point. See rodeo.

See E. Hough, The Story of the Cowboy (1897, repr. 1970); J. B. Frantz and J. E. Choate, Jr., The American Cowboy, the Myth and the Reality (1955, repr. 1968); J. A. Lomax and A. Lomax, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (rev. ed. 1966).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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