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Vaquero 3: Holo Holo Paniolo — The Hawaiian Cowboy


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Holo holo in Hawaiian, means to get around and that’s what this documentary is all about. Filmed on five Hawaiian islands, it takes you to the large spreads like Parker Ranch, and to some of the smaller homesteads of the native Hawaiians. It all started in 1833 when King Kamehameha recruited 3 vaqueros from Alta California to train the Hawaiians how to ride, rope and catch the wild cattle. Here are a few scenes from this feature-length documentary that runs 98 minutes.

Wild cattle set the paniolo apart
In the early days, the paniolo had to catch the wild cattle. In the dead of night, the critters came out of hiding, seeking water. The paniolo roped and tied them to a tree overnight. The next morning, they snubbed them to their saddle horn and headed down the mountain for a wild ride with the bull in tow.

It began with the vaqueros
Three vaqueros from Alta California trained the Hawaiians. Two returned, but Ramon stayed behind. Godfrey Kainoa is a descendant of that early vaquero and works on the Kahua Ranch.

The Hawaiian saddle
Unique to the Islands, is the Hawaiian saddle with its awe awe. It’s a rawhide fork cover with integral braids, attaching it to the rigging ring. The saddle can be stripped down to the bare tree, making it waterproof for swimming cattle to the boats.

The famous Parker Ranch
This ranch was the first one in Hawaii and is one of the largest in the US, with 175,000 acres and 17,000 head of cattle. The ranch employs the most modern, sophisticated methods of cattle handling and is an example of how Hawaii keeps up with the times.

Paniolo tradition passed down.
The tradition is passed down in families. Emerson teaches his six year old son the skills. The little guy can barely reach the stirrups, but at this tender age, he already has perfect balance on the horse and will make one heck of a paniolo.

Back to the Hawaiian roots
The paniolo is part of the Hawaiian culture and goes back many generations. At the RK Cattle branding, Sonny Keakealani helps his two daughters. As they work, you hear them speak Hawaiian, preserving the language.

Colt starting
A few decades ago, horses were not broke until they were powerful and rank 7-year olds. Today, a gentler method is used, influenced by the Dorrances. Brothers Jim and Luke Neubert of Alturas, CA show how it’s done with malleable 3-year olds.

The Hawaiian loop
The Hawaiians were innovative in many ways, including the loop they used to catch calves for branding. Kimo Hoopai of the Ponoholo Ranch demonstrates how it’s thrown.

Abraham Akau, Kualoa Ranch
The indomitable spirit of the paniolo is best expressed by this old-time Parker Ranch horse breaker. He is in his 80s now, but still looks back with glee at the perils of roping wild cattle and breaking 7-year old colts!

Palani Ranch and the stone walls
In the highlands above Kona, are the stone walls that held the first cattle. They are still used by the Palani Ranch. Here, they sort cattle in the stone corral that has served the ranch for over 150 years.


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