Cow punching is the act of herding cattle. Although the name suggests hitting cattle, the physical act of punching is not involved in cow punching at all. Rather, it encompasses actions such as wrangling, herding, and branding cattle.
The term cow punching comes from the slang used to describe cowboys and cowgirls. When they herded cattle for a living, it was not uncommon for them to be called a cow punch. Cow punching could also involve the breaking and training of horses for the trail.