Vaqueros at the Castro Adobe

Admin | March 29, 2017 |

Vintage photo of early vaquero c1910, a head vaquero for Miller & Lux operating in Santa Cruz & Santa Clara counties, his name was Narcisco Jesus Castro. (photograph courtesy of Frank Estrada)

From the first Spanish expedition into Alta California in 1769, the vaquero played a significant role in California’s heritage. Vaqueros, or horse-mounted livestock herders, originated on the Iberian Peninsula and were brought to the Americas from Spain. The vaqueros of the Americas were horsemen and cattle herders in Spanish Mexico who came to California. The vaquero “culture” developed into a fine art through the Mission and Rancho eras, and continued into the early 1900s.

At the Rancho San Andres Castro Adobe, herds of cattle and livestock grazed the land under the mounted vaquero’s watchful eye. The vaqueros were skilled in the use of the rawhide riata for cattle sorting, roping, branding and slaughter, as well as roping grizzlies. The rider and the horse worked in partnership with the slightest of “cues” hardly noticeable. True horsemen were held in highest regard for their patience, knowledge and skills regarding horses, cattle and the land.

Today, the history, horsemanship, equipment, knowledge of land use and lifestyle of vaqueros are revered traditions. Learn about the vaquero culture and view a demonstration of vaquero-style horsemen at Vaqueros on the Rancho, a ticketed fundraising event at Castro Adobe State Historic Park on Saturday, May 6.