Translations Of 'Cattle Station' and Homesteads

There are many different breeds of horses and cattle all over the world but they’re easily recognisable as horses and cattle so the names used to describe them are relatively consistent.

This is not so for the land that supports beef cattle grazing enterprises because there are so many variables. For example there is a vast difference between extremely intensive European mixed enterprises and the extensive grazing enterprises in the Americas and Australia.

The following lists include some of the nearest equivalents in countries with relatively small areas of land running cattle:

Names for the owner’s or manager’s house on a cattle station:

  • ‘big house’ — Australia (‘homestead’ in more closely settled, farming country)
  • ‘hacienda’ — Mexico (perhaps this term is no longer in use)
  • ‘casco’ — Argentina
  • ‘casa sede’ — Brazil

Names for living quarters for stockmen (some very basic):

  • ‘ringers quarters’ — Australia
  • ‘bunkhouse’ — U.S.
  • ‘puesto’ — Argentina
  • 'alojamento' — Brazil
  • ‘tambo’ — Quechua language (‘place of rest or refuge’ in the Quechua language which is the most commonly spoken Indian language in South America; mainly in Peru & Bolivia but also southern Columbia and Ecuador, northern-western Argentina and northern Chile)

Names for a shed on a station (ranch):

  • ‘shed’ — Australia (often open sided and used for storing equipment, supplies, vehicles and machinery. Livestock are not usually housed anywhere in Australia and relatively few horses are stabled, only in southern & urban areas)
  • ‘barn’ — U.S.A., Canada (usually closed in, due to snowy winters; houses stock as well as the above)
  • ‘tenada’ — Spanish
  • 'galpao' — Brazilian Portuguese
  • 'engard' (un engard) — French (shed for equipment)
  • 'etable' — French (shed for cattle)
  • 'ecurie' — French (shed for horses)

Words used to describe natural grasslands used to graze livestock:

  • ‘downs country’ — Australia, mostly in the hot northern inland. Natural grasslands with few trees; referred to as ‘savanna’ by ecologists. Usually dark coloured, heavy clay 'self mulching' soils that crumble and crack during the tropical 'dry' season so severely that the establishment of large trees is prevented. Featuring various varieties of very drought-tolerant native grasses such as the incredibly deep-rooted Mitchell Grass species. Moderate to low rainfall, mostly in summer, and droughts occur regularly. It never snows and frost is rare.
  • ‘prairie’ — temperate, relatively low rainfall grasslands covering much of the central and northern states of the U.S., from Texas and Mexico stretching right up into western Canada (in particular, the southern part of Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces, although Manitoba is sometimes included in location descriptions, too). Tallgrass prairie is in areas of higher rainfall (mostly in the east and north) whereas shortgrass prairie is in the lower rainfall areas, eg on the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains. Most prairie land is now farmed. Snows every winter in the northern prairielands.
  • ‘pampas’ (meaning 'plain' in the original local language of Quechua) — temperate, naturally treeless grasslands in South America, primarily Argentina but also Brazil and Uruguay. Rainfall is moderate, predominantly in summer, and snow is rare.
  • ‘'los llanos’ — 'the plains' — beautiful, wildlife-rich tropical wetlands of Venezuela & Colombia.
  • ‘paramo’ (or 'paramos') — very cold and relatively wet treeless plains at a high altitude — in between the upper tree line and the bottom of the permanent snow line, in South American countries in the northern Andes, such as Colombia and Ecuador.
  • ‘veldt’ (or 'veld') — a term used to refer generally to open, flat or undulating agricultural land in Southern Africa, usually with few trees or hills.
  • 'moorlands' and 'heathlands' — a term primarily used in the United Kingdom. Windswept, treeless plains covered in low vegetation such as bracken and native grasses. Mostly grazed by sheep but also cattle.
  • ‘steppe’ — a huge slab of naturally treeless plains characterised by cold winters, relatively hot summers, low rainfall and the typical daily temperature extremes of deserts — cold nights and relatively warm days (big daily temperature changes). The Eurasian steppe (or 'steppes') is mostly located in the central regions of continental Europe — i.e. a long way from the tempering effects of large oceans. The Eurasian steppe stretches from Hungary, Romania and Ukraine east across through Kazakhstan and southern Russia, to Mongolia and northern China. Interestingly, a map of the Eurasian steppe beautifully illustrates the regions where the domestication of horses and horsemanship began, thousands of years ago.
  • 'Pannonian Plain' — a large, flat area of very fertile soil in Central Europe, that was formed eons ago when the Pannonian sea dried up. The Pannonian Plain stretches across a number of borders — Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Hungary. The Pannonian Plain is very significant because its an area where horsemanship and horse breeding traditions began, many centuries ago, when horse-borne invaders began arriving (e.g. the Mongols in the 13th century).
  • 'The Great Alfold' and 'Puszta' — 'the Great Hungarian Plain'. The part of the Pannonian Plain that is located within Hungary. Puszta means a vast, empty, grassy and very flat plain, i.e. it's an adjective, but it is often used as a noun — as a place name.
  • 'tundra' — treeless plains located in very cold regions (very high altitudes or close to polar regions). The subsoil is permanently frozen and the topsoil only thaws out during the short, wet growing season. Grazing most domestic livestock is impractical, with the exception of locally adapted migratory animals that are walked in by herders during the short summer months — such as Siberian reindeer (Russia).

Words used to describe (largest scale) cattle grazing enterprises:

In Australia the largest properties, which run cattle only, are called cattle 'Stations' ('ranches' in the American and Canadian equivalent). Smaller Australian properties and those with other types of livestock or crops are referred to as 'farms', however farms in Australia range from hundreds of acres (dairy farms in more temperate regions) to thousands of acres (sheep and grain growing properties in more marginal country) — far larger than the equivalent business in densely populated countries with relatively fertile soil, such as England and France.

  • ‘station’ — Australia & New Zealand
  • 'run' — New Zealand & Canada
  • ‘ranch’ — U.S. and Canada
  • ‘hacienda’ — Spain and Spanish—speaking parts of South America such as Peru, as well as Spanish-influenced southern US states. Hacienda is sometimes used to refer more specifically to a large farm or plantation & ranchos to refer to a large property running livestock only.
  • 'rancho muy grande' — Mexico ('latifundios' is a historical term that is no longer used in Mexico.)
  • ‘latifundios’ — northern South America. Especially large ‘hacienda’, with implications of being unfairly large and not efficiently managed. ‘Latifundios’ is often mentioned in the same sentence as ‘oligarchy’, which means a form of government in which power is (unjustly) held by very few — i.e. it is used with negative connotations. However I gather this term is now largely a historical one, mostly only used today by outsiders criticising the pastoral industry (for example, in Brazil).
  • ‘fundo’ — Chile
  • ‘hatos’ — Colombia and Venezuela (llanos region)
  • ‘estancia’ — Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay; also southern Brazil where there has been a Spanish influence
  • ‘fazenda’ — Brazil
  • ‘manade’ — Camargue (south of France)
  • 'veepos' — South Africa (Afrikaans)

What about farms (crop growing enterprises)?

Worldwide, there are a multitude of names for different agricultural enterprises and scales.

Just to complicate matters similar words sometimes have quite different meanings in other countries. For example a ‘rancho’ in Argentina does not mean ‘ranch’, it means a humble adobe, straw-roofed house housing poor people. ‘Rancho’ in Mexico means a small farm, usually family owned and run. These are language pitfalls for the unwary!

  • 'farm' — Australia (The term ‘farm’ in Australia usually refers to relatively smaller holdings [than cattle stations], landholdings that run mixed enterprises or properties on which crops are the sole enterprise)
  • 'market garden' — Australia (vegetable growing business; usually smaller again in area, and very intensively farmed)
  • 'orchard' — a fruit producing enterprise
  • 'hobby farm' — a small farm owned by someone who is not reliant on farming income for their survival (i.e. it's a hobby); the owners are either retired or they still live in the city and just visit their hobby farm on weekends (also various referred to as 'Collins Street', Pitt Street' and 'Queen Street' farmers; named after the main streets in the C.B.D.s of the largest eastern state capital cities. These terms usually imply that the person has more money than sense, and little knowledge of agriculture. The closest U.S. equivalent is 'dude ranch'.
  • 'ferme' — France
  • 'rancho' — Mexico (a small farm, usually family owned and run)
  • 'granja' — Argentina
  • 'chacra' — Argentina (smaller sized farm)
  • 'finca' — Argentina (vineyard or orchard [where fruit trees are cultivated])
  • 'fazenda ou roca' — Brazil
  • 'bowerie'/'bowery' — The Netherlands (Dutch)

Terms meaning 'farmer' (a person who grows crops):

  • 'farmer' — Australia
  • 'boer' — Afrikaans (over the last couple of centuries 'boer' has also come to mean white, Dutch-speaking South African farmer)

Where does the term ‘Station’ come from?

How did the Australian term ‘station’ come about? Presumably it was used by early British settlers because people were ‘stationed’ (situated) on these particular spots. 'Sheep station' and 'cattle station' were terms commonly used by Australian settlers throughout the 1800s.

‘Outstations’ (in the past also referred to by some as ‘outposts’) are small versions of the homestead complex, located in distant corners of the largest stations and usually permanently occupied by at least a skeleton staff. If a full stockcamp don’t live on the outstation full time then they’ll visit from the main station complex a couple of times a year to muster the surrounding area. There are now very few stations that have permanent staff living on outstations. Alexandria in the Northern Territory is one of the few exceptions.

Interestingly, the word ‘estancia’ which is used over much of South America to describe a large cattle property, is derived from the Spanish word for ‘station’ — ‘estación’ (from the Latin word ‘stantia’).

Words for Stockwork

Terms for putting cattle into a stock yard:

  • 'yarding' and 'yarding up' — Australia
  • 'penning' — U.S.

Terms for Some of the Physical Features on Cattle Stations

Yard for containing cattle (or other livestock):

  • 'cattle yards' or 'stock yards' — Australia (yard — can mean a set of yards, or one of the fenced off areas within the whole)
  • 'corral' — Spain, Mexico, U.S.A., Canada (pen — one of the fenced off areas within the corral)
  • 'curral' — Brazil
  • 'kraal' — Afrikaans, South Africa

Narrow fenced laneway on an incline, which cattle walk up to be loaded onto trucks:

  • 'loading race' or 'race' — Australia
  • 'loading chute' — U.S.

Gates usually arranged in a circle, that lead to a number of different pens in a stockyard (used when a mob of livestock are being segregated into groups such as dry cows, bulls, culls, weaners, calves etc):

  • 'drafting gates' — Australia
  • 'cutting gates' — U.S.

Small pen to fit just one animal in, usually attached to a race (or alley), to minimise the movement of cattle when being weighed or receiving veterinary treatment:

  • 'cattle crush' — Australia, New Zealand, Britain
  • 'squeeze chute' — U.S.

Device up one end of a cattle crush, which fits around a beast's neck to keep their head still when being vaccinated, earmarked, mouthed for age, etc:

  • 'head bail' — Australia
  • 'head gates' and 'neck yoke' — U.S.

Fenced in or enclosed area around the sheds (stables or barns) on a farm:

  • 'yard' — Australia (sometimes 'farm yard', but like 'chickens', it tends to be an urban term, rarely used by rural residents themselves. And there is no term commonly used to describe the area around a cluster of sheds on a cattle station, and 'barn' is not a term used in rural Australia at all.)
  • 'farm yard' — England
  • 'barn yard' — America

Wire gates:

  • 'cockies gate' — Australia
  • 'Taranaki gate' — New Zealand

Fencing material:

  • 'barbed wire' — Australia
  • 'barb wire' — America

Stock grids:

  • 'grid' or 'cattle grid' — Australia
  • 'cattle stop' — New Zealand
  • 'cattle guard' — Canada & U.S.A.
  • 'Texas gate' — part of U.S.

Windmills (for pumping water; not energy producing or miller's windmills):

  • 'windmill' — Australia, U.S.
  • 'windmeul' — South Africa (Afrikaans)
  • 'eolienne' — France

Area of ground for grazing animals, fenced off:

  • 'paddock' — Australia (in Australia, the term 'field' is generally only used in relation to crops)
  • 'field', 'meadow' — England & U.S.A.

To view hundreds of photographs of Australia's largest cattle stations, with interesting captions and a substantial glossary of quirky and witty words and expressions that are mostly unique to these regions, view the books 'A Million Acre Masterpiece' and 'Life as an Australian Horseman'.

Please note: Information on these translation pages is protected by copyright laws, like the rest of the website.

Many hours of work have been spent compiling these pages of translations, cross checking as much as possible, to ensure accuracy. But because I am not a linguistics expert all words and meanings translated here should be cross checked with other sources before being quoted, because I am not able to guarantee there are no errors.

© Copyright Fiona Lake

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