views updated


Pato, the most popular of the gaucho games. From the colonial era gauchos enjoyed challenging others and showing their courage and skill in a variety of equestrian games. In pato, players sewed a duck (pato) into a large rawhide with several leather handles protruding from the outside. At a signal, mounted gauchos tried to grab the duck and ride away. Contestants often covered miles of pampa in this horseback version of "keep away." During the game, gauchos were often injured when pulled from their horses by other riders. The mass of contestants destroyed property and scattered livestock, thereby arousing the ire of plains ranchers. Repeatedly banned from the late eighteenth through the late nineteenth century, pato remained a favorite gaucho contest.

Like many other gaucho activities, pato became embodied in pampa folklore. By the late nineteenth century, however, government officials succeeded in banning or altering many elements of traditional gaucho life. Pato became "civilized," with regulation playing fields, league competitions, and written rules. The modern domesticated game, somewhat akin to polo, retains some of the traditional form but lacks the danger and vitality of the gaucho original.

See alsoGaucho .


Richard W. Slatta, Gauchos and the Vanishing Frontier (1983), pp. 86-87; and Cowboys of the Americas (1990), pp. 137-138.

Additional Bibliography

Assunção, Fernando O. Historia del gaucho: El gaucho, ser y quehacer. Buenos Aires: Editorial Claridad, 1999.

Foster, David William, Melissa Fitch Lockhart and Darrell B. Lockhart. Culture and Customs of Argentina. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

                              Richard W. Slatta