47 in HIGH x 4 in WIDE
(119.38 cm HIGH x 10.16 cm WIDE)
Gift of Don Kelley

Disposition Rancho Case | Early California Art and History, Science Special Gallery, December 2007 - September 2009

Horsehair quirt; Period or Date: Mission; Description: Dark brown and white woven From the History Information Station Object: Two quirts made of braided horsehair in the 19th century. History: The word quirt comes from the Spanish cuarta de cordon, meaning "whip of cord." Also known as a cuarta or quisto, the quirt was usually made from horse hair, as are these. Horse-hair work was a favorite leisure time activity of many vaqueros. Finely made and fancy pieces were often given as gifts. When riding, the vaquero always carried a quirt suspended from his wrist by the rawhide band. The vaquero used the quirt as a riding whip, or to strike down a rearing horse that threatened to fall backward. To make the quirt more effective the handle was usually filled with lead shot to provide weight. The loaded quirt handle also proved to be an effective weapon. Gift of Don Kelley America's First Cowboys Spanish explorers first introduced cattle into the Western hemisphere in the 15th century. Three centuries later, herds on the Spanish missions and ranchos were multiplying at an astounding rate both in New Spain and Alta California. As cattle grazed on common, unfenced ranges, it became necessary to guard the herds from wild animals and rustlers. Lack of manpower was a problem, but the mission padres found a solution: they taught their Indian converts to ride horses and herd cattle. The cowhands came to be called vaqueros (an extension of the Spanish vaca, meaning cow, with the suffix ero, meaning "one engaged in a given occupation or activity"). The American cowboy is the direct descendent of the early mission and rancho cowhands. It was the vaquero who set the style, evolved the equipment and techniques, and developed much of the vocabulary that has come to characterize the American cowboy. Whenever he swings a lariat, rides in a rodeo, or pulls on his chaps the cowboy pays tribute to the vaquero.

Used: California

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