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cull the herd

1. Literally, to separate or remove (and usually kill) inferior animals out of a herd so as to reduce numbers or remove undesirable traits from the group as a whole. We had to quickly cull the herd when it came to light that some cows might be carrying an infectious disease.
2. By extension, to separate or remove people from a larger group. With so many people applying for a limited number of jobs, employers have had to cull the herd by introducing much stricter criteria and a more elaborate application for hiring. Universities have long used standardized test results as a means of culling the herd of applicants they receive each year.
See also: cull, herd

be like herding cats

To be very unwieldy or unmanageable; to be nearly impossible to organize. Usually said of a group of people. Getting all of the extended family into their right places for the reunion photo was like herding cats! It's like herding cats trying to manage all these different software development teams.
See also: cat, herd, like

herd cats

To attempt to coordinate or control subjects that are uncooperative. Often used as a point of comparison in the phrase "like herding cats." Trying to get my two toddlers out the door these days is like herding cats!
See also: cat, herd

herd someone or something together

to bunch people or animals together. Let's herd all the kids together and take them in the house for ice cream and cake. I herded all the puppies together and put them in a box while I cleaned their play area.
See also: herd, together

like herding frogs

Rur. chaotic; disorderly. (On the image of trying to direct frogs, which will jump any which way.) Trying to get those kids to march into the auditorium is like herding frogs. Trying to get everybody to cooperate is like herding frogs.
See also: frog, herd, like

ride herd on someone or something

Fig. to supervise someone or something. (Alludes to a cowboy supervising cattle.) I'm tired of having to ride herd on my kids all the time. My job is to ride herd on this project and make sure everything is done right.
See also: herd, on, ride

ride herd on somebody/something

  (American)
to be responsible for controlling a group of people and their actions The new editor will ride herd on the staff, checking on the overall policy and tone of the paper.
See also: herd, on, ride

ride herd on

Keep close watch or tight control over, as in Aunt Martha is always riding herd on her bridge club, making sure they follow the rules . This idiom alludes to the cowboy who rides around a herd of cattle to keep them together. [Late 1800s]
See also: herd, on, ride

ride herd on

To keep watch or control over.
See also: herd, on, ride
References in classic literature ?
Frequently, when passing at the distance of half a mile to leeward of a herd, I have perceived the whole air tainted with the effluvium.
Never mind whom,'' answered Gurth, who had now got his herd before him, and, with the aid of Fangs, was driving them down one of the long dim vistas which we have endeavoured to describe.
us strode hastily down the forest glade, driving before him, with the assistance of Fangs, the whole herd of his inharmonious charge.
On the way he came upon a herd of elephants standing in an open forest glade.
The herd moved restlessly, prepared for fight, for the old bull had caught the scent of man.
The last ranks of the herd were now passing over the rails, while the first had already disappeared below the southern horizon.
I think you ought to sell the herd anyway," he went on.
Naked and unarmed, as I was, my end would have been both speedy and horrible at the hands of these cruel creatures had I had time to put my resolve into execution, but at the moment of the shriek each member of the herd turned in the direction from which the sound seemed to come, and at the same instant every particular snake-like hair upon their heads rose stiffly perpendicular as if each had been a sentient organism looking or listening for the source or meaning of the wail.
Good jumped at the idea, for he was longing to have a shot at those elephants; and so, to speak the truth, did I, for it went against my conscience to let such a herd as that escape without a pull at them.
The replies this theory gives to historical questions are like the replies of a man who, watching the movements of a herd of cattle and paying no attention to the varying quality of the pasturage in different parts of the field, or to the driving of the herdsman, should attribute the direction the herd takes to what animal happens to be at its head.
The next day but one a small party of hunters returned to the village from the south to report a large herd of elephant some miles away.
The next day it snowed very hard, so that he could not take the herd to their usual feeding places, but was obliged to keep them in the fold.
So that, at the end of five days, we found ourselves short but four men--Henderson, Holyoak, Williams, and Kelly,--and were once more hunting on the flanks of the herd.
It's particulary nice if Pava's daughter should be a red-spotted cow, and all the herd will take after her, and the other three, too
There come the buffaloes themselves, and a noble herd it is