The mystique of the South American gauchos

Venerated or mistrusted, the South American man of the pampas is part of its fabric. Their role has been, and remains, the tending of free-roaming cattle over the vast grasslands of Argentina, Southern Brazil and Uruguay. Huacho, Spanish for vagabond or orphan is the etymological basis of the name Gaucho.

When your correspondent trekked on horseback from Argentina into Chile, the rare glimpses of humanity were the gauchos. Striking was their innate sense of where their cattle were – even if three hours away. Years of observing their herd’s behavior would mean an incredible ability to sense where they were going to be; not once were they wrong.

Gaucho South America

Gaucho Carlos and his trusted gelding Criollo, Nariz, in the Cordoba pampas, Argentina

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Coooling the legs of our Criollos after a hard days trek

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The simplicity of gaucho homes in the pampas was surprising

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Matias was happiness personified

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The Stars my Blanket” By Beryl Smeeton offers a fascinating insight into the life and customs of the South American Gaucho; travelling alone, she completes a 1000 mile trek on horseback through the eastern foothills of the Andes shortly before World War II.

Semilla back at his ranch with his horses. Informally dressed in his typical boina (hat), bombachas and alpargatas

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Formal gaucho dress, comprising wide brimmed hats, ponchos, silver or hand woven gaucho belts, (and a mandatory long knife tucked through their belt), bombachas and incredibly heavy long boots, is seen at certain festivals such as the Doma.

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The doma are 3 – 8 day rodeo spectaculars where the most incredible horsemanship may be seen. Mounting feral horses with minimal tack and one hand suspended in the air defies belief.

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