The term "cowboy"

Started by Kenneth Kwame Welsh, (C) on Friday, February 25, 2011


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2/25/2011 at 1:31 PM

I've heard it mentioned that the term "cowboy" was first used on Black males that had come from the cowherding tribes of West Africa (primarily Fula or Fulani) in South Carolina.

2/25/2011 at 5:05 PM

Now that's very interesting. There was a "History of US" episode on television that covered "Cowboys" and the contribution of Black cowboys to that culture; but did not mention the Fulani connection. Did South Carolina originate cowboy culture? Do you have a timeline?

2/25/2011 at 7:29 PM

I remember this from TV's old black and white days. Wonder if there's a ref.
I'l try re wording it in google a few ways and see if I coome up with anything.

2/25/2011 at 7:34 PM

one vote for spain

Sounds to easy

2/25/2011 at 7:55 PM

The Chinese

medieval Ireland

The word "Cowboy" exists in medieval Ireland according to a PBS article
( )

The principal cattle markets of South Carolina by 1682 were the Bahamas,
Jamaica, and Barbados. British troops and Creek Indians stole Spanish cattle
from Florida in 1704 and added the stock to the South Carolina cattle industry.

Historically horses were ridden bareback, or with only a blanket over their back.
Riders throughout the centuries hunted, fought in wars and traveled great distances
all while riding bareback. Some claim a tribe called the Sarmatians who lived by
the Black Sea first invented the saddle in 365 AD, as well as the metal stirrup and spurs.
The Sarmatians were well known for their horsemanship and use of horses in battle.
They were a nomadic tribe that worshiped fire and often sacrificed horses to their god.
Female Sarmatians may have been the inspiration for the Greek tales of the Amazons,
as they were known to ride into battle with the men. The Sarmatians were conquered
by the Goths at the end of the third century in the area which is now Southern Russia.

and the Fulani are mentioned

Writers mention "Slave Cowboys" in their studies of South Carolina and Appalachian
cattle industries. They also mention slave cattle rustlers working under the
direction of their masters. There is plenty of material which deals with the issue
of non-servant class, free cattle laborers refusing to be called “Cowboy” during
U.S. colonialism, but I do want to point out that not all underclass laborers in
the colonial cattle industry were African-American slaves, some were Indian and
some were White. In closing this phase of my first point, African-American slaves
who worked with cattle inherited the title “Cowboy” from the English language,
the word did not arise as a result of American slavery, the word was not created
in Texas, Buckaroo is the transliterated word for Vaquero, not “Cowboy“, and finally,
it is not a pidgin word from the numerous African languages that came to America.
Africans from cattle cultures like the Fulani had there own words for
people who worked with cows.

2/25/2011 at 8:10 PM

here's an interesting list (found by mistake)

2/25/2011 at 8:16 PM

The cowpen keepers or cowpen managers were usually white,
but the cattle hunters were most often black. Many of the slaves
brought to the colonies came from areas in Western Africa such as
Ghana and Gambia where cattle were herded. Scientists using DNA
analysis have determined that cattle were domesticated and being
tended by humans as long as 6000 to 8000 years ago in Africa
(Bradley et al 1996). Plantation owners with large herds of
cattle often found that enslaved people from these areas already
possessed great skills in herding animals. These enslaved men
worked cattle in the tall grass ‘savannas,’ pine barrens and
marshes of the Carolinas, often on horseback.

2/25/2011 at 8:20 PM

Gone With The Wind?


In the opening scenes of "Gone With The Wind," Black slaves
are depicted herding cattle on the Tara Plantation, this
depiction represents what some believe is the origins of
the Black cowboy. There is an earlier origin for the Black
cowboy in Africa, and the book, "Nomads of Niger" by American
photographer Carol Beckwith and Belgian Anthropologist Marion
Van Offelen captures this view quite well. This book presents
the history of the Fulani people of Africa by taking the reader
back to approximately 5000 years old rock cave paintings in
the Algerian Sahara. Van Offelen believes the paintings depict
people herding cattle in a way similar to the way the Fulani
nomads herd their cattle today, a link that would span from
African antiquity through the Euro-African slave trade era to
modern times. "Nomads of Niger" also presents the contemporary
beauty of the Fulani people in an excellent photo essay and I
find the cover photo of a Fulani cowboy herding cattle on a
camel most interesting.

2/25/2011 at 8:25 PM

ok "african cowboys South Carolina" came up with over 11mil results

I guess I'll get back to what I was doing. Lots of interesting stuff in what I read.

Private User
2/28/2011 at 8:29 AM

Marvin, thanks for all the research and interesting links. I"m going to cross-post the SCIWAY link on our internet resources discussion.

2/28/2011 at 8:44 AM

I should have done that myself. Thanks. We need to have that discussion turned into a cross ref list by Subject,, and possible info that can be found on the help pages, getting to long to be easily referenced. Finding the link you really need is lost in all the posts.

Private User
2/28/2011 at 8:47 AM

A couple regular contributors to the list have said the same thing. Erica and I both encouraged them to find a creative way to do this.

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