herd

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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

ride herd on (someone or something)

To keep an eye on someone or something to supervise or maintain control. (An allusion to a cowboy riding on his horse to keep a herd of cattle in order.) We want the groups of students to work independently, but we should have a teacher riding herd on each one to make sure they stay focused. Being a camp counselor is a lot of fun, but having to ride herd on a bunch of kids for two weeks at a time can be exhausting.
See also: herd, on, ride

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

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 someone/something

AMERICAN
If someone rides herd on other people or their actions, they control them. It's his job to ride herd on organizers to keep them on schedule. Note: People sometimes use over instead of on. The ideal situation is one where everyone feels responsible and no one person has to ride herd over the others. Note: Originally, `riding herd' involved patrolling on horseback around a herd of animals, in order to make sure none of them wandered away.
See also: herd, on, ride, someone, something

ride herd on

keep watch over.
Literally, this North American expression means ‘guard or control a herd of cattle by riding round its edge’.
1999 Coloradoan (Fort Collins) That, in turn, would detract from his ability to ride herd on Washington special interests, allowing deficits to grow like mushrooms under a rotten log.
See also: herd, on, ride

ride ˈherd on somebody/something

(American English, informal) keep watch or control over somebody/something: Police are riding herd on crowds of youths on the streets.
See also: herd, on, ride, somebody, something

ride herd on

To keep watch or control over.
See also: herd, on, ride
References in classic literature ?
I can take the herd round through the jungle to the head of the ravine and then sweep down --but he would slink out at the foot.
The other herd children, watching with the cattle half a mile away, hurried to the village as fast as their legs could carry them, crying that the buffaloes had gone mad and run away.
And we will keep the herd of cattle free for our own use--and the King's.
Now fare you well, good Sheriff," he said, "and when next you think to despoil a poor prodigal, remember the herd you would have bought over against Gamewell.
The dark forms of the herd lost their distinctness, and then the naturalist began to fancy he beheld a wild collection of all the creatures of the world, rushing upon him in a body, as if to revenge the various injuries, which in the course of a life of indefatigable labour in behalf of the natural sciences, he had inflicted on their several genera.
The old man, who had stood all this while leaning on his rifle, and regarding the movements of the herd with a steady eye, now deemed it time to strike his blow.
us strode hastily down the forest glade, driving before him, with the assistance of Fangs, the whole herd of his inharmonious charge.
A strange purring sound issued from the mouth in the palm of one of his hands, and at the same time he started rapidly toward the bluff, followed by the entire herd.
As I topped a great boulder I saw the herd of plant men surrounding a little group of perhaps five or six green men and women of Barsoom.
Meanwhile the herd had crashed off in wild alarm in the other direction.
For awhile we debated whether to go after the wounded bull or to follow the herd, and finally deciding for the latter alternative, departed, thinking that we had seen the last of those big tusks.
And if Hurton can't clean it up, you'd better get rid of the herd before it gets known around the country.
I think you ought to sell the herd anyway," he went on.
In a rough circle about him and the ape-man squatted the bulls of his herd.
All he could do for the present was to urge them to haste, and at his suggestion the king baboon with a dozen of his mightiest bulls agreed to go to the hill country with Korak, leaving the balance of the herd behind.