Cowboys! Hawaii's Love of Paniolos

The Hawaiian cowboy - paniolo - is a "tradition that precedes its mainland American counterpart by half a century." !

When one thinks of Hawaii or Maui, in particular, the idea of cowboys, ranches, cattle and horses are not exactly what comes to mind.  Yet, It would be hard to visit  Upcountry Maui without seeing the influence of paniolos - cowboys - throughout the area.  Stop by in Makawao and you'll feel like you just stepped into a Western movie, complete with hitching post and lettering on the signs that still retain the old-timey sensibility, just as at Rodeo General Store.  But you'll also get yoga-clad women running for their next class or a line-up outside of Komoda's store for killer cream puffs and masadas (doughnuts).  At night, there is always a lot of action on the third Friday of the month, where music, art, and food join together for a mini-festival.

Paniolo culture isn't limited to Makawao as witnessed by the ranches that dot the countryside or the grand events that appear such as the 4th of July Parade and rodeo (yes, you heard right, a rodeo!).  Even the The New York Times did some research with their article, In Maui's Upcountry, Where the Paniolo Roam, where paniolos roam.  An excerpt:

When most mainlanders picture Maui, they see surfers sliding down mammoth waves, bays crowded with sailboats and waterfalls alongside the ragged, verdant Hana Highway. But the Upcountry, which sweeps across the islandís interior and climbs the volcanic foothills of Haleakala, is another Hawaii. Instead of beaches, surf shacks and shaved ice stands, the region has chilled air; sprawling, multigenerational cattle ranches; and a paniolo - Hawaiian cowboy - tradition that precedes its mainland American counterpart by half a century.

"They were running horses up here," a trail guide would later tell me, "when they were still settling the Midwest."

If you think the imagery of Maui and its cowboys is iconic, you got that right.  And one of my favorite chroniclers of cowboy culture (among other things such as hula), is photographer Randy Jay Braun (disclosure: this is not a paid editorial or affiliation link of any kind). Here are a few of his amazing photos: the one directly above is also featured on our home page above Talk Story; the other two show his range.  FYI, Braun also runs a photography classes and offers much of his work for sale.

Talk Story