When the Spanish conquistadors begin exploring the lands north of Mexico City, the land they called Coahuila, for the local indigenous people,now called Texas, they carried iron tipped lances, steel swords, and wore steel armor and helmets. They controlled their horses with iron bits, and the horses were shod with iron shoes. And, by the way, their spurs were also forged of iron. Before long, the Coahuiltecans began to “acquire “(read: steal ) horses, which propelled their own technology into a new era. However they didn’t have the the science of making tools out of iron. So Mr. Indigenous Texan made out the best that he could by fashioning horse gear the same way as his other tools, from dried animal skins. As time went on, European settlers began to move into the area from the eastern colonies. Now, both red and white men deployed a technology for handling horses based on items manufactured from untanned cowhides– rawhide! Over the centuries this has come to be known as “cowboy iron.” Rawhide is incredibly durable. It resists chafing, pulling, breaking and even weathering. It can be made into items of equestrian gear nearly as hard edged as iron by the technique of braiding, or plaiting. As the Spaniards explored the area, they brought soldiers, many of whom were of Muslim extraction, escaping the Spanish Inquisition. Among these were men who were skilled at the ancient art of rawhide braiding which they brought with them from their north African culture. From this fusion we get the rawhide hackamore, with its heavy, plaited bozal, used to train colts. They produced the beautiful intricate braided rawhide romal reins, the quirts, and even the sixty foot long four strand braided rawhide reata so famous among the big loop cowboys of the western slope even today. The strength and durability and beauty of these items earned them the name “cowboy iron.”
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