During the late 1800's many young Basque men came to the United States looking for better economic opportunity than was offered in their homelands. By sheer coincidence, the sheep industry was booming in the American West, and sheepherders were badly needed. Most of the sheepherders were European immigrants, especially young unmarried Basque and Irish men. Most of these young men intended to return home eventually, but ended up staying for the rest of their lives.

By 1900, there were large Basque populations in many Western States, and special Basque Boarding Houses even existed to serve the herders when they came in off the range. These hotels were a second home for the sheep men, and gave the herders a place to rest, socialize and learn the latest news from home. Along with the comfort of a bed, the sheepherders were served generous meals that usually included beef and lamb steaks, soup, crisp salad, beans, spaghetti, bread and wine, plenty of wine. The Basque tradition of excellent food, warm hospitality and unique atmosphere still can be found in some Western towns with Basque restaurants

An interesting hobby that some Basque sheepherders took up was tree carving. As a way to remember their past and record the present, many sheepherders carved their names, hometowns, and dates on the plentiful Aspen trees. Ultimately, this practice became a way of communicating with other herders who would visit the same places years later. Recently these carvings, known as Arborglyphs have become the focus of several studies by archeologists, specifically on Steens Mountain in Eastern Oregon and near Flagstaff, Arizona. The names, places, and thoughts expressed there help re-create the life of a sheepherder.

The Taylor Grazing Act, passed in the mid-1930's effectively ended the day of sheepherder. The 1960s marked the last of the Basque sheepherders, although many Basque families remain in the west.