9.25 in HIGH x 5.5 in WIDE
(23.49 cm HIGH x 13.97 cm WIDE)
Gift of Miss E. Boyd

Spanish/Mexican area | Early California Art and History, Science Special Gallery, December 2007 - September 2009

Spurs. Description: pair of silver inlaid spurs, with silver trim. History: collected in 1905-1906 by donor's father, Edward Anderson White, in Santa Barbara, California. Object: Pair of spurs dating to the 19th century. They have tooled leather spur straps decorated with silver conchas, inlaid silver heel bands, shanks trimmed with silver, and iron rowels and heel chains. History: Spurs arrived in New Spain on the heels of the conquistadors. Adopted by the vaqueros, or cowboys, they were strapped to whatever footwear he chose, or even to his bare ankles--the vaquero was never without his spurs. The rowels--pointed rotating disks--were used by the mounted vaquero to urge his horse forward. Some rowels were up to eight inches in diameter, making it difficult to walk, but the vaquero never walked when he could ride. When he did walk, the heel chains which passed beneath his shoes gave off that ringing sound so frequently heard in the many cowboy movies produced in Hollywood. Gift of E. Boyd 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: Santa Barbara

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