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Introduction of Cattle
Cattle for Cash
Mexican Vaquero
Paniolo Skills
Major Ranches
Ranch Lifestyle
Famous Paniolo
Bibliography - Paniolo

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Paniolo Skills

The first skill the Islands’ new cowboys needed was horse handling. Most of the early horses in Hawai`i were mustangs, tough strong horses that required a minimum of care. Many were not well trained or were only partially broken. Pupule referred to crazy horses, hapalaka meant half broken and laka was a fully broken horse; a laka horse was the most effective work animal and invariably in high demand.

Vaquero used big Spanish spurs and heavy spade bits to control the most spirited horses. Once trained, a 600-900 pound horse could carry heavy loads, climb rugged hills and work hard all day. In corralling and driving cattle, they were an essential partner for the paniolo.

The vaquero also shared their roping skills and taught Hawaiians how to control and thin the bullock herds and turn them into domesticated cattle. They showed Hawaiians their leather working techniques, how to cut and braid lariats, and in the hours after work, how to play the guitars they’d brought with them from California.

Later when cattle production and ranching became more established, paniolo also became skilled in transporting cattle from land to sea. Before refrigeration, cattle were often shipped live and transferred from neighbor islands to the Honolulu stockyards for sale. Cowboys atop their horses swam cattle out through the surf to waiting longboats which then rowed out to the steamer, the cattle tied by their heads to the gunwales. Hydraulic systems were later able to hoist cattle from the dock and out over the water to the inter-island steamer.

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