The vaquero (Spanish pronunciation: [baˈkeɾo], Portuguese: vaqueiro [vaˈkejɾu]) is a horse-mounted livestock herder of a tradition that originated on the Iberian Peninsula. Today the vaquero is still a part of the doma vaquera, the Spanish tradition of working riding. The vaquero traditions developed in Mexico from methodology brought to Mesoamerica from Spain also became the foundation for the North American cowboy.The vaqueros of the Americas were the horsemen and cattle herders of Spanish Mexico, who first came to California with the Jesuit priest Eusebio Kino in 1687, and later with expeditions in 1769 and the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition in 1774. They were the first cowboys in the region.
In the modern United States and Canada, remnants of two major and distinct vaquero traditions remain, known today as the "Texas" tradition and the "Spanish", "Vaquero", or "California" tradition. The popular "horse whisperer" style of natural horsemanship was originally developed by practitioners who were predominantly from California and the Northwestern states, clearly combining the attitudes and philosophy of the California vaquero with the equipment and outward look of the Texas cowboy. The natural horsemanship movement openly acknowledges much influence of the vaquero tradition.
The cowboys of the Great Basin still use the term "buckaroo", which may be a corruption of vaquero, to describe themselves and their tradition.