From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A goose herder
Shepherd sheep in Patagonia, Argentina

A herder is a pastoral worker responsible for the care and management of a herd or flock of domestic animals, usually on open pasture. It is particularly associated with nomadic or transhumant management of stock, or with common land grazing. The work is often done either on foot or mounted.

Depending on the type of animal being herd, the English language can give different professional names, for example, cowboy for cows, shepherd for sheep, or goatherd for goat.


A herdboy in the coat of arms of Tuupovaara

Herders may be distinguished by sex (e.g., herdsman, herdswoman or herdboy) or by the type of livestock, for example camelherd, cowherd, duckherd, goatherd or shepherd.[1]

By country[edit]


Tibetan herding communities living in the Tibetan Plateau in the Sichuan Province of southwest China continued to graze herds on common lands even after the 1982 Household responsibility system. Several reasons have been given for the endurance of the traditional pastoral lifestyle:[2]

  • complex topography prevents the division of common grazing lands among individual households
  • yaks require free grazing and become ill in fenced pasture
  • rotation of grazing spots

Grassland degradation has been an issue. Herding communities and their leaders have taken steps to reach a consensus about sustainable grazing practices. These include developing the community political organization to enforce commitments to seasonal rotational grazing.[2]

By cattle type[edit]


Cowboys portrayed in Western art. The Herd Quitter by C. M. Russell

A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend.[3] A subtype, called a wrangler, specifically tends the horses used to work cattle. In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work for or participate in rodeos. Cowgirls, first defined as such in the late 19th century, had a less-well documented historical role, but in the modern world work at identical tasks and have obtained considerable respect for their achievements.[4] Cattle handlers in many other parts of the world, particularly South America and Australia, perform work similar to the cowboy.

The cowboy has deep historic roots tracing back to Spain and the earliest European settlers of the Americas. Over the centuries, differences in terrain and climate, and the influence of cattle-handling traditions from multiple cultures, created several distinct styles of equipment, clothing and animal handling. As the ever-practical cowboy adapted to the modern world, his equipment and techniques also adapted, though many classic traditions are preserved.

There are numerous regional types of cow herder, many with a specific name; these include the stockman of Australia, the buttero, campino, csikós, gardian and gulyás in Europe, the buckaroo, charro, cowboy and vaquero in North America, and the gaucho, huaso, llanero, morochuco and qorilazo [es] of South America.


A man herding goats in Tunisia

A goatherd or goatherder is a person who herds goats as a vocational activity. It is similar to a shepherd who herds sheep. Goatherds are most commonly found in regions where goat populations are significant; for instance, in Africa and South Asia. Goats are typically bred as dairy or meat animals, with some breeds being shorn for wool. The top six goat industry groups in the United States include: meat (includes show), dairy (includes show, pygmy and Nigerian dwarf), fiber or hair (angora, cashmere), 4-H, industrial (weed control, hiking/pack), and biotech (see Goats in agriculture).[5]

Companies using goats to control and eradicate leafy spurge, knapweed, and other toxic weeds have sprouted across the American West.[6]


Shepherds travelling in Chambal, India
Shepherd with grazing sheep in Făgăraș Mountains, Romania

A shepherd or sheepherder is a person who tends, herds, feeds, or guards flocks of sheep. Shepherd derives from Old English sceaphierde (sceap 'sheep' + hierde 'herder'). Shepherding is one of the world's oldest occupations, it exists in all parts of the globe, and it is an important part of pastoralist animal husbandry.

Because of the ubiquity of the profession, many religions and cultures have symbolic or metaphorical references to the shepherd profession. For example, Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd,[7] and ancient Greek mythologies highlighted shepherds such as Endymion and Daphnis. This symbolism and shepherds as characters are at the center of pastoral literature and art.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brooks, Alexandra (2003-06-19). "26 farm workers to receive long service awards". FarmingUK. The Breezi Publishing Company Ltd. Archived from the original on 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  2. ^ a b Wei, Han; Ling, Su. "Supporting Collective Action through Community Development Funds: An Institutional Innovation for Herder Poverty Reduction in Sichuan, China" (PDF).
  3. ^ Malone, J., p. 1.
  4. ^ "Home Page". Cowgirl Hall of Fame & Museum. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  5. ^ "Breeds of Livestock - Goat Breeds — Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science". www.ansi.okstate.edu. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
  6. ^ "American Pastoral". Brown Alumni Monthly. Sep–Oct 2012.
  7. ^ Gospel of John 10:11