Here are my Top 5 gaucho essentials to help you get to grips with this unique Argentine figure:
5. Bombachas (gaucho pants)
These loose-fitting trousers are an essential wardrobe item for any gaucho, and have made their way into the contemporary fashion scene in Argentina too. Baggy around the crotch, they leave plenty of space for jumping onto your horse without any risk of a rip at the seam. The belt area at the top is oversized, into order to comfortably fit a faja (colorful woven wool or leather sash) and belt.
The flat-cap beret is the typical headwear for a gaucho to provide some shade and sun protection on long rides, but not impede their swift movements or infringe on their aerodynamism. The origins of the Argentine beret come from the Spanish conquerors, and the early gauchos in Argentina were considered mestizos - with mixed European and native american ancestry.
When you spend most of your time outdoors on a horse, you need to be prepared for all sorts of weather. Although the native American poncho has origins before the first gauchos, it has become a staple in the gaucho outfit and a warm poncho is a godsend when wind or rain accompanies your journey. The poncho also doubles up as extra padding for your saddle and provides your own private mini-tent to sleep in.
2. A knife
The gaucho is a nomad, always eating on the run. The knife is traditionally the only instrument a gaucho would use to prepare dinner and eat, therefore having a good quality knife is a source of pride for any gaucho. Spontaneous asados (BBQs) in the mountains are common and typically a gaucho would use their knife to carve bite-size pieces of meat off to enjoy with a swig of local wine.
1. A horse
It ain’t a real gaucho if it doesn’t ride a horse! Gauchos are skilled horsemen who might spend months at a time on horseback, voyaging over the Andes mountains, across the Pampa or through the wetlands to reach gaucho comrades in Uruguay and Brazil. The true test of a gaucho’s ability on horseback is if they can scoop up their fallen beret from the ground without touching the saddle.
The ultimate gaucho-horse talent show is a game of Pato. This little-known sport is actually Argentina’s national sport but is played by few because it is so devilishly hard. Pato literally translates as duck, and was so-named because gauchos would historically play this horseback game using a live duck as the ball. The high fatality rate of ducks involved pushed them towards adopting a ball for the modern games of Pato, and today the game more closely resembles basketball on horseback. Ask any player and they will swear it is about five times harder than polo, and only played by the most skilled of horsemen and gauchos.
Bonus Essential: Malbec
What more could you ask for than a flask filled with Malbec after a long day riding? It’s perfect to quench the thirst, soak up the steak and offer the quintessential Argentine experience.