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The Cowboy from Marajó, Pará

The typical characteristic type of a cowboy from Marajó is caboclo, a mixture of white and Indian origins, with a predominance of the Indian blood. Their lives is very much connected to the work in local farms.

The Cowboy from Marajó, Pará

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Last update: 11/10/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

With over 40,000 square kilometers, Marajó Island, located at the mouth of Amazonas river, is the fluviomarine island of the world.

By the end of the 17th century, at the previously named Ilha Grande de Joanes, the first cattle farms were established with a flock that came from Portugal. The animals were introduced in the island by the colonizers, beginning a long crossbreeding process. Many breedings were performed with a buffalo imported from India, and mainly with the Zebu breed, also from India. The buffalo, whose meet has an excellent quality and weights more than a regular cow, was well-adapted to the Island’s climate.

In addition to the beef cattle, there were also imported horses that suffered crossbreeding processes. Known as Criollo horse or hard feet, the horse from Marajó is, generally, a short, resistant, fast animal, completely adapted to the environmental conditions of the Island.

The cattle of Marajó island is exclusively beef cattle, being basically exported in proper vessels for Belém, at Pará, the state of Amazonas, and to the Guyanas.

The typical characteristic type of a cowboy from Marajó is caboclo, a mixture of white and Indian origins, with a predominance of the Indian blood. Their lives is very much connected to the work in local farms.

Their clothes are simple and light due to the strong heat, basically made of a clear woven shirt and pants; a light Carnaúba or Arumã straw hat with large flaps. During the rainy season, their wear a cape to protect themselves from the wind and the rain.

Usually, they don’t wear spurs, ride barefoot, sometimes without a saddle, and always use the muchinga, a whip made of raw leather, with four or five tails. The raw leather comes from the skin from the farm's cattle, sun-dried.

It is also part of their work equipment: the service rope, used to catch cows, also made of raw leather stripes and created by themselves; the saddle; the bearing rein (a set of leather strips and metal parts placed around the horse’s head and muzzle); the needle, a rod with a sharp iron end used to guide the cattle; the half-saw, a blade used to cut the tip of animals’ horns during the branding (period when the cattle is branded) or rodeos; and the half-sabre, a small knife with a leather cuff, used for the cowboys’ defense.

Due to the progressive disappearance of leather artisans in the island, the service rope or the catching rope started being replaces by nylon ropes, which last longer and are not so hard during summers and soft during the rainy season, in addition to not being destroyed by rats.

The same process is taking place with the saddles. Due to the shortage of saddlers, they are being replaced for models used in the Brazilian Northeast. The saddles of farm owners, previously made with lamb leather, were also replaced by military saddles or imported from England, Canada, and Australia.

During flood season, the Marajó cowboys ride the cattle to cross flooded areas.  The animals are known as cow-horses or saddled-cows.


Recife, 9 August 2012.

sources consulted

FIGUEIREDO, Napoleão. O vaqueiro da ilha de Marajó (estado do Pará). Recife: Fundaj, Instituto de Pesquisas Sociais, Centro de Estudos Folclóricos, 1988. (Folclore, 192-193).

MANZOLLI, Maria Aparecida de Araújo. Dança do vaqueiro do Marajó. Anuário do Folclore, Olímpia, SP, ano 18, n. 21, p. 87-88, 1991.

SOARES, Lúcia de Castro. Tipos e aspectos do Brasil: vaqueiros de Marajó. 10. ed. atual. e ampl. Rio de Janeiro: IBGE, 1975. p. 65-66.

VAQUEIRO de Marajó. [Imagem neste texto. Desenho de Percy Lau]. Available at: <http://www.consciencia.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/vaqueiro-ilha-marajo-e1308320640599.jpg>. Accessed: 24 August 2012.

how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. O vaqueiro da Ilha de Marajó, Pará. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:<http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar> . Accessed: day  month  year. Exemple.: 6 August 2009.