Smithsonian Voices

From the Smithsonian Museums

(Photo courtesy of Masatsu “Masa” Kawamoto collection, Division of Work and Industry, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History)

Cowboys in the Tropics: A History of the Hawaiian Paniolo

In 1793, while Hawai‘i was still an independent republic, British Captain George Vancouver gifted King Kamehameha I a small amount of cattle that quickly multiplied. In the early nineteenth century, several Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) were sent to the islands to teach Hawaiians how to ride horses and maintain the cattle. Roping cattle and riding horses seem fitting in the prairie grasslands of Oklahoma, but the Hawaiian style of cowboy traditions is unique to the landscape.