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Cowgirl vs. Cowboy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on September 18, 2023
"Cowgirl" refers to a woman skilled in riding and herding cattle, typically in the American West, while "Cowboy" refers to a man with the same skills and in a similar setting.

Key Differences

"Cowgirl" and "Cowboy" both signify individuals proficient in riding and managing cattle, usually in the rural landscapes of the American West. However, "Cowgirl" specifically refers to women who engage in this work, while "Cowboy" generally refers to men.
"Cowgirls" often participate in rodeo events such as barrel racing, which are female-centric, whereas "Cowboys" compete in male-dominated events like bull riding. Both are skilled in horsemanship but may excel in different events.
Historically, the term "Cowboy" has been more prevalent in American culture, featured prominently in literature, films, and folklore. "Cowgirls," on the other hand, have gained recognition more recently, emphasizing their role in a traditionally male-dominated field.
In modern usage, "Cowgirl" and "Cowboy" have extended beyond their original agricultural connotations. For instance, "Cowgirl" can be used metaphorically to describe a tough, independent woman, while "Cowboy" can describe someone who is reckless or acts independently in any profession.

Comparison Chart



Rodeo Events

Barrel Racing
Bull Riding

Cultural Exposure

Less Historic
More Historic

Extended Meanings

Tough, Independent Women
Reckless, Independent Men

Typical Activities

Riding, Herding, Rodeo
Riding, Herding, Rodeo

Cowgirl and Cowboy Definitions


A female rodeo performer.
The cowgirl dazzled the crowd with her barrel racing.


A male rodeo performer.
The cowboy impressed everyone with his bull riding.


A woman knowledgeable about rural lifestyles.
The cowgirl knew how to live off the land.


A man skilled in riding and herding cattle.
The cowboy lassoed the runaway steer.


A woman skilled in riding and herding cattle.
The cowgirl expertly rounded up the cattle.


A man working in a rural setting.
The cowboy mended the fence around the pasture.


A symbol of independent, fearless womanhood.
She was a cowgirl at heart, never backing down from challenges.


A symbol of rugged individualism.
He was a cowboy, always going his own way.


A woman working in a rural setting.
The cowgirl fixed the fence on her farm.


A hired man, especially in the western United States, who tends cattle and performs many of his duties on horseback. Also called cowman; also called regionally buckaroo, vaquero, waddy2. See Note at buckaroo


A hired woman, especially in the western United States, who tends cattle and performs many of her duties on horseback.


An adventurous hero.


A woman who tends free-range cattle, especially in the American West.


(Slang) A reckless person, such as a driver, pilot, or manager, who ignores potential risks.


A woman who identifies with cowboy culture, including clothing such as the cowboy hat.


A man who tends free-range cattle, especially in the American West.


A playing card of queen rank.


A man who identifies with cowboy culture, including wearing a cowboy hat and being a fan of country and western music.


A sex position where the woman is on top; cowgirl position.


(informal) A person who engages in reckless behavior, especially for the purpose of showing off.


To work as a cowgirl, herding cattle.


A dishonest and/or incompetent independent tradesman.


To mount someone and have sexual intercourse in the cowgirl position.


A playing card of king rank.


A woman cowboy


(uncountable) cowboy pool


(intransitive) To work as a cowboy, herding cattle.


A cattle herder; a drover; specifically, one of an adventurous class of herders and drovers on the plains of the Western and Southwestern United States.


One of the marauders who, in the Revolutionary War infested the neutral ground between the American and British lines, and committed depredations on the Americans.


A hired hand who tends cattle and performs other duties on horseback


A performer who gives exhibitions of riding and roping and bulldogging


Someone who is reckless or irresponsible (especially in driving vehicles)


A man knowledgeable about rural lifestyles.
The cowboy could survive days in the wilderness.


What is a "Cowboy"?

A "Cowboy" is a man skilled in the same activities, usually in similar settings.

Can "Cowgirls" compete in rodeos?

Yes, Cowgirls often compete in rodeo events like barrel racing.

Is the term "Cowboy" more historic than "Cowgirl"?

Yes, "Cowboy" has been more historically prominent in American culture.

What rodeo events are specific to "Cowboys"?

Cowboys are more likely to participate in events like bull riding.

Can "Cowgirl" have extended meanings?

Yes, "Cowgirl" can metaphorically refer to a tough, independent woman.

What skills do "Cowgirls" typically possess?

Cowgirls are skilled in riding, cattle herding, and sometimes rodeo events.

What are the extended meanings of "Cowboy"?

"Cowboy" can refer to someone who is reckless or independent in any setting.

What is a "Cowgirl"?

A "Cowgirl" is a woman skilled in riding and herding cattle, often in the American West.

What kinds of work do "Cowboys" do?

Cowboys engage in similar work, focusing on cattle herding, riding, and rodeos.

Is "Cowgirl" a modern term?

While not entirely modern, it has gained more recognition in recent years.

What skills do "Cowboys" typically possess?

Cowboys possess similar skills but may specialize in different rodeo events.

Are "Cowgirls" less represented in folklore?

Yes, Cowgirls have been less historically represented than Cowboys.

What kinds of work do "Cowgirls" do?

Cowgirls are often involved in cattle herding, riding, and sometimes rodeo events.

Are "Cowgirl" and "Cowboy" interchangeable?

No, they are gender-specific terms describing similar but distinct roles.

How has the term "Cowboy" evolved?

"Cowboy" has expanded to include a broader sense of independence or recklessness.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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