Buckaroo vs. Cowboy — What’s the Difference? (2024)

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Urooj Arif — Updated on May 12, 2024

Buckaroo refers to a cowboy, especially in the Great Basin region of the US, known for a distinct style of dress and riding, while cowboy is a more general term for those who manage cattle, often associated with the American West.

Buckaroo vs. Cowboy — What’s the Difference? (2)

Difference Between Buckaroo and Cowboy

Table of Contents


Key Differences

A buckaroo is specifically associated with the cowboy culture of the Great Basin area of the United States, which includes parts of Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. This term emphasizes a unique regional variation of the cowboy lifestyle. In contrast, the term cowboy is used broadly across the United States and beyond to denote individuals who work with cattle, typically on horseback.

Buckaroos are noted for their distinctive style of dress and gear, which includes chinks (short leather leggings), flat hats, and high-heeled boots. Cowboys, while also often characterized by a recognizable style featuring cowboy hats, boots, and spurs, may vary more significantly in attire based on region and specific duties.

While buckaroos engage in cattle handling and other ranch work similar to cowboys, their methods and equipment might differ slightly due to regional traditions. For example, buckaroos often use a different style of rope and have unique saddling techniques compared to their cowboy counterparts.

The origins of the word "buckaroo" trace back to the Spanish word "vaquero," meaning cowman or herdsman, highlighting the Hispanic influences in this subgroup of cowboy culture. Conversely, "cowboy" is an English term that became popularized worldwide, embodying a more generalized image of livestock herders in the American West.

Buckaroos often participate in rodeos and other local competitions that showcase their riding skills and livestock handling, similar to cowboys. However, their participation in such events still emphasizes their distinct regional identity and traditional skills, whereas cowboys might engage in a broader array of rodeo events across different regions.


Comparison Chart

Regional Influence

Great Basin area (Nevada, Oregon, Idaho)

Broadly American West and beyond

Dress Style

Chinks, flat hats, high-heeled boots

Cowboy hats, boots, spurs, varying by region

Terminology Origin

From Spanish "vaquero"

English term "cowboy"

Riding Style

Specific regional techniques and equipment

More varied, traditional Western riding styles

Cultural Role

Emphasizes regional traditions, rodeo participation

Broad representation in rodeo and ranch culture

Compare with Definitions


Refers to a cattle handler with specific regional attire and riding style.

Buckaroos often wear chinks rather than full-length chaps.


Associated with the American West and cowboy culture.

Cowboys are often romanticized in Western movies and books.


A cowboy, particularly from the Great Basin region, with distinct Spanish-influenced gear.

The buckaroo expertly handled the roping at the rodeo.


Wears distinctive Western attire like hats, boots, and spurs.

Dressed in a wide-brimmed hat and spurs, the cowboy was ready for a day of ranch work.


Participates in regional rodeo events, showcasing traditional skills.

The buckaroo won first place in the traditional riding competition.


Participates in rodeos and Western sports.

The cowboy competed in the bronc riding event at the local rodeo.


Emphasizes a distinct identity within the cowboy culture.

Buckaroos maintain a proud heritage that distinguishes them from other cowboys.


Skills include riding, roping, and other ranch-related tasks.

His skills as a cowboy were essential during the cattle drive.


Western US See cowboy.


A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend.


A cowboy; specifically, a working cowboy who generally does not partake in rodeos.


(especially in the western US) a man who herds and tends cattle, performing much of his work on horseback

They are always playing cowboys and Indians


One who sports a distinctive buckaroo style of cowboy clothing, boots, and heritage.

Many cowboy poets have a buckaroo look and feel about them.


A dishonest or careless person in business, especially an unqualified one

Cowboy coach firms are alleged to have flouted safety rules


A style of cowboy boot with a high and uniquely tapered heel.


Work as a cowboy.


A reckless, headstrong person.

Don’t run in looking for a fight like some kind of buckaroo.


A hired man, especially in the western United States, who tends cattle and performs many of his duties on horseback. Also called cowman; also called regionally buckaroo, vaquero, waddy2. See Note at buckaroo


(slang) A dollar; a buck.

That’ll be twenty buckaroos, buddy.


An adventurous hero.


A cowboy, especially used of one who breaks broncos; - used especially in California.


(Slang) A reckless person, such as a driver, pilot, or manager, who ignores potential risks.


A fellow; a guy.


A man who tends free-range cattle, especially in the American West.


Local names for a cowboy (`vaquero' is used especially in southwestern and central Texas and `buckaroo' is used especially in California)


A man who identifies with cowboy culture, including wearing a cowboy hat and being a fan of country and western music.


Known for unique saddling and roping techniques.

His buckaroo skills were evident in how he saddled his horse.


(informal) A person who engages in reckless behavior, especially for the purpose of showing off.


A dishonest and/or incompetent independent tradesman.


A playing card of king rank.


(uncountable) cowboy pool


(intransitive) To work as a cowboy, herding cattle.


A cattle herder; a drover; specifically, one of an adventurous class of herders and drovers on the plains of the Western and Southwestern United States.


One of the marauders who, in the Revolutionary War infested the neutral ground between the American and British lines, and committed depredations on the Americans.


A hired hand who tends cattle and performs other duties on horseback


A performer who gives exhibitions of riding and roping and bulldogging


Someone who is reckless or irresponsible (especially in driving vehicles)


A person who herds and tends cattle, typically on horseback.

The cowboy led the cattle across the open field.

Common Curiosities

How does a buckaroo differ from a cowboy?

A buckaroo is a type of cowboy with distinct regional characteristics and Spanish influences, differentiating them from the broader cowboy culture.

What is a buckaroo?

A buckaroo is a term used for a cowboy, specifically in the Great Basin region, known for unique dress and riding styles.

Are all cowboys considered buckaroos?

No, not all cowboys are considered buckaroos; buckaroos are specifically from certain regions and have unique cultural and attire elements.

What attire is typical for a buckaroo?

Typical attire for a buckaroo includes chinks, flat hats, and high-heeled boots.

What historical influences shaped the buckaroo tradition?

Spanish vaqueros significantly influenced the buckaroo tradition, especially in terms of equipment and riding techniques.

Where is the term "buckaroo" commonly used?

The term "buckaroo" is commonly used in the Great Basin area, including parts of Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho.

How do buckaroos participate in community events?

Buckaroos often participate in local rodeos and competitions that highlight their specific skills and regional traditions.

What are common tasks of a cowboy?

Common tasks of a cowboy include herding cattle, performing ranch work, and participating in rodeos.

Can women be buckaroos or cowboys?

Yes, women can be buckaroos or cowboys and often perform the same tasks and participate in the same events as their male counterparts.

What is the significance of rodeos for cowboys and buckaroos?

Rodeos serve as a cultural and competitive event where cowboys and buckaroos showcase their skills in riding, roping, and handling livestock.

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Author Spotlight

Written by

Urooj Arif

Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

Edited by

Tayyaba Rehman

Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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