Horses in Pre-Colonial and Colonial Periods
Horses first appeared in Argentina in the Pleistocene era as feral herds, but eventually - and mysteriously - disappeared. They appeared again in the Fifteenth century when they were brought over from Spain during the Spanish conquests. Since then, horses have played a vital role in the people and culture of Argentina and indeed, most of Latin America. Many indigenous tribes adapted the horse into their ways of life, which helped them in defense against the Spanish, as well as providing a new means of transport and assisting in expanding their territory.
Horses were also an essential part of the cattle-raising ranches of the gauchos, or Argentine cowboys, a group that is still thriving today. The gauchos originated in the Sixteenth century in the pampas and went on to become perhaps the most famous group of people in Argentina. The first gauchos were responsible for taming the wild horses that had escaped from the Spanish settlements. Gauchos are often compared to the American cowboy, both being shrouded in myths and legends, although the Argentine cowboy is very much alive today.
Gauchos in Argentina
Horses in Argentina Today
The most common breed now used by gauchos is the Argentine Criollo. This type of horse originated from selective breeding of feral horses that once roamed the pampas. The Criollo is known for its endurance, stamina and sure-footedness, and is considered the national horse of Argentina. It is mainly a cow-herding horse, but is also used in rodeo events and trail riding.
With its vast expanse of the pampas, the Andes Mountains, and the long stretches of coastline, Argentina is an excellent place for trail riding and also for experiencing the traditional gaucho culture and its life on a real estancia, or working cattle ranch. Many tours include trips to estancias and excursions to the countryside, giving visitors an unparalleled and unforgettable opportunity to travel back in time and experience authentic ranch life, Argentine style.
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