A gaucho (Spanish: [ˈɡautʃo]) or gaúcho
(Portuguese: [ɡaˈuʃu]) is a skilled horseman, reputed to be
brave and unruly. The gaucho is a national symbol in Argentina, Chile,
Brazil, and Uruguay. Gauchos became greatly admired and renowned in
legends, folklore and literature and became an important part of their
regional cultural tradition. Beginning late in the 19th century, after
the heyday of the gauchos, they were celebrated by South American
The gaucho in some respects resembled members of other nineteenth
century rural, horse-based cultures such as the North American cowboy
(vaquero, in Spanish), the Chilean huaso, the Peruvian chalan, and
morochuco, the Venezuelan or Colombian llanero, the Hawaiian
paniolo, the Mexican charro or the Portuguese campino.
According to the Diccionario de la lengua española, in its historical
sense a gaucho was "a mestizo who, in the 18th and 19th centuries,
inhabited Argentina, Uruguay, and
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, was a
migratory horseman, and adept in cattle work" In
Uruguay today a gaucho is, according to the same source, simply "A
country person, experienced in traditional livestock farming".
Because historical gauchos were reputed to be brave, if unruly, the
word is also applied metaphorically to mean "Noble, brave and
generous", but also "One who is skilful in subtle tricks,
crafty". In Portuguese the word gaúcho (note the accent) means "An
inhabitant of the plains of
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul or the pampas of
Argentina descended from European man and [Amer]Indian woman who
devotes himself to lassoing and raising cattle and horses"; and in
Brazil gaúcho has also acquired a metonymic signification, meaning
anyone, even an urban dweller, who is a citizen of the State of Rio
Grande do Sul. In its purest sense, gaucho referred to the nomadic,
often outlaw inhabitants of the great plains of Argentina,
Brazil. In current usage, gaucho usually designates the rural working
class in general."
2 Essential attribute: The horse
4 Modern influences
5 In popular culture
7 See also
10 External links
The earliest securely dated depiction of an Uruguayan gaucho. From
"Picturesque Illustrations of Buenos Ayres and Monte Video" by Emeric
Essex Vidal (1820)
Gaucho in ring lancing contest, Buenos Aires Province.
There are several hypotheses concerning the origin of the term. It may
derive from the Spanish term chaucho, in turn derived from a Turkish
low-rank military term Chiaus, through
Arabic Shawsh which became
broadly applied to any guard/watcher or aide. The first recorded
use of the term dates to Argentine independence in 1816. Another
scenario indicates the word may derive from the Portuguese gaudério,
which was designated to the inhabitants of the vast regions of Rio
Grande do Sul and
Río de la Plata
Río de la Plata in the 18th century or the
Portuguese garrucho that points to an instrument used by the gauchos
to trap and hamstring cattle. The 18th century chronicler Alonso
Carrió de la Vandera speaks of "Gauderios" when it mentions the
Gauchos or "Huasos" as poorly dressed men.
Another plausible origin is from a South American indigenous language,
Mapudungun cauchu (“vagrant, wanderer”), kauču
(“friend”), or Quechua wahcha (“vagabond, poor person”). It
could also derive from
Arabic wahcha (وحشة) which means the state
of being lonely in the wilderness.
Essential attribute: The horse
An essential attribute of a gaucho was that he was a skilled horseman.
"He has taken his first lessons in riding before he is well able to
walk". Without a horse the gaucho felt himself unmanned. The
William Henry Hudson
William Henry Hudson (who was born on the pampas of Buenos
Aires province) recorded that the gauchos of his childhood used to
say, a man without a horse was a man without legs. He described
meeting a blind gaucho who was obliged to beg for his food yet behaved
with dignity and went about on horseback. Richard W. Slatta, the
author of a scholarly work about gauchos, notes that the gaucho
used horses to collect, mark, drive or tame cattle; to draw fishing
nets; to hunt ostriches; to snare partridges; to draw well water; and
even − with the help of his friends − to ride to his own
By reputation the quintessential gaucho caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas
could throw his hat on the ground and scoop it up while galloping his
horse, without touching the saddle with his hand.For the gaucho,
the horse was absolutely essential to his survival for, said Hudson:
"he must every day traverse vast distances, see quickly, judge
rapidly, be ready at all times to encounter hunger and fatigue,
violent changes of temperature, great and sudden perils".
A popular copla was:
Mi caballo y mi mujer
viajaron para Salta,
el caballo que se vuelva,
mi mujer que no me hace falta.
("My horse and my woman/Went off to Salta/May the horse return/For I
don't need my woman.")
It was the gaucho's passion to own all his steeds in matching colours.
The gaucho, from the poorest worker on horseback to the largest owner
of lands and cattle, has, or had in those days, a fancy for having all
his riding-horses of one colour. Every man as a rule had his tropilla
— his own half a dozen or a dozen or more saddle-horses, and he
would have them all as nearly alike as possible, so that one man had
chestnuts, another browns, bays, silver- or iron-greys, duns, fawns,
cream-noses, or blacks, or whites, or piebalds.
The caudillo El Chacho Peñalosa described the low point of his life
as "In Chile − and on foot!" (En Chile y a pie.)
Gauchos drinking mate and playing the guitar in the Argentine Pampas.
Segundo Ramírez, who inspired
Ricardo Güiraldes to write Don Segundo
The gaucho plays an important symbolic role in the nationalist
feelings of this region, especially that of Argentina, Paraguay, and
Uruguay. The epic poem
Martín Fierro by José Hernández (considered
by some the national epic of Argentina) used the gaucho as a
symbol against corruption and of Argentine national tradition, pitted
against Europeanising tendencies. Martín Fierro, the hero of the
poem, is drafted into the Argentine military for a border war,
deserts, and becomes an outlaw and fugitive. The image of the free
gaucho is often contrasted to the slaves who worked the northern
Brazilian lands. Further literary descriptions are found in Ricardo
Güiraldes' Don Segundo Sombra. Like the North American cowboys, as
discussed in Richard W. Slatta, Cowboys of the Americas, gauchos were
generally reputed to be strong, honest, silent types, but proud and
capable of violence when provoked. The gaucho tendency to violence
over petty matters is also recognized as a typical trait. Gauchos' use
of the famous "facón" (large knife generally tucked into the rear of
the gaucho sash) is legendary, often associated with considerable
bloodletting. Historically, the facón was typically the only eating
instrument that a gaucho carried.
Also like the cowboy, as shown in Richard W. Slatta, Cowboys of the
Americas, gauchos were and remain proud and great horseriders.
Typically, a gaucho's horse constituted most of what he owned in the
world. During the wars of the 19th century in the Southern Cone, the
cavalries on all sides were composed almost entirely of gauchos. In
Argentina, gaucho armies such as that of Martín Miguel de Güemes,
slowed Spanish advances. Furthermore, many caudillos relied on gaucho
armies to control the Argentine provinces.
The gaucho diet was composed almost entirely of beef while on the
range, supplemented by yerba mate (erva-mate in Portuguese), an herbal
infusion made from the leaves of a South American tree, a type of
holly rich in caffeine and nutrients.
Gauchos dressed quite distinctly from North American cowboys, and
used bolas or boleadoras - in Portuguese boleadeiras - (three leather
bound rocks tied together with approximately three feet long leather
straps) in addition to the familiar "North American" lariat or riata.
The typical gaucho outfit would include a poncho (which doubled as a
saddle blanket and as sleeping gear), a facón (large knife), a
rebenque (leather whip), and loose-fitting trousers called bombachas,
belted with a tirador, or a chiripá, a loincloth. During winters,
gauchos wore heavy wool ponchos to protect against cold.
Gaúcho is also the common denomination of the current inhabitants of
the Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul.
Gauchito (a boy in the Argentine colors and a gaucho hat) was the
mascot for the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
Fogo de Chão, a fine dining, full-service Brazilian steakhouse or
churrascaria, operating in the United States, Brazil and Mexico,
summarizes the traditional gaucho method of roasting meats over an
In popular culture
Martín Fierro is a 2,316-line epic poem by the Argentine writer José
Hernández on the life of the eponymous gaucho.
Way of a Gaucho
Way of a Gaucho 1952 film starring
Gene Tierney and Rory Calhoun.
The Gaucho was a 1927 film starring Douglas Fairbanks.
La Guerra Gaucha
La Guerra Gaucha was a 1942 Argentine film set during the
against Spanish royalists in Salta, northern Argentina, in 1817. It is
considered a classic of Argentine cinema.
The third segment of Disney's 1942 animated feature package film,
Saludos Amigos, is titled "El
Gaucho Goofy", where American cowboy
Goofy gets taken mysteriously to the Argentine pampas to learn the
ways of the native gaucho.
Gaucho is the name of the 1980 album by American jazz fusion band
Steely Dan, which featured a song by the same name.
Gauchos of El Dorado
Gauchos of El Dorado was a 1941 American Western "Three Mesquiteers"
B-movie directed by Lester Orlebeck.
Inodoro Pereyra by
Roberto Fontanarrosa is an Argentinean humor comics
series about a gaucho.
Gaucho is the name of a song by the
Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band on the 2012
album Away From the World.
The Gaucho is the
University of California Santa Barbara
University of California Santa Barbara mascot.
Gaucho in authentic clothing, 1840s.
Pampas gauchos training for the Esgrima Criolla.
Un alto en el campo (1861) by Prilidiano Pueyrredon.
Chilean gauchos, 1820s.
La Posta de San Luis by Juan León Pallière (1858).
Two gauchos in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1880.
Folklore dance: Zamba, Argentina. Gaucho.
Pedro II of Brazil
Pedro II of Brazil in typical Gaúcho outfit.
Gauchos in Corrientes province, Argentina.
Brazilian gaúcho with typical clothing at the 2006 Farroupilha
Argentine gauchos in the city of Salta.
Gauchos in the Federalist Revolution (1893 to 1895).
Gauchos dancing in full outfit (2012)
^ Slatta, Auld and Melrose.
^ Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, Tri-Centennial Edition,
Gaucho, sense 5. ("
Mestizo que, en los siglos XVIII y XIX, habitaba la
Uruguay y Río Grande del Sur, en Brasil, era jinete
transhumante y diestro en los trabajos ganaderos.")  accessed 4
^ Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, Gaucho, sense 6.
^ Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, Gaucho, sense 1.
^ Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, Gaucho, sense 4.
^ Dicionário Priberam da Língua Portuguesa, Gaúcho.
^ Oliven, Ruben George (2000). ""The Largest Popular Culture Movement
in the Western World": Intellectuals and Gaúcho Traditionalism in
Brazil". American Ethnologist. Wiley for the American Anthropological
Association. 27 (1): 128–146. doi:10.1525/ae.2000.27.1.128.
JSTOR 647129. , p.129.
^ Shumway, 12.
^ This is rather an implausible origin given that in Spanish loanwords
from Arabic, the "Gau" is often a transformation from the Arabic
letter "Waw" (W).
^ Christison, p. 39.
^ Hudson, 1918, p. 23.
^ Hudson, 1918, p. 24.
^ The work has been peer-reviewed by Adelman, 1993; Collier, 1988;
Lynch, 1984; Reber, 1984.
^ Slatta, pp. 25-27.
^ Cunninghame Graham, 1914, p. 5.
^ Hudson, 1895, p. 356.
^ Arnoldi and Hernández, p. 177.
^ Hudson, 1918, p. 160.
^ Sarmiento, p. 14.
Leopoldo Lugones 1 in "El Payador" (1916)2 and Ricardo Rojas 3
established the canonical view regarding the
Martín Fierro as the
National Epic of Argentina. The consequences of these considerations
are discussed by
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges in his essay "El Martín Fierro".
An assessment of the years-long discussion here Archived 2007-03-06 at
the Wayback Machine., since p. 18
^ South-images.com Photos: gauchos in Argentina, Photo library
^ "Fogo de Chao Form 10-K 2017". www.sec.gov. March 5, 2017. Retrieved
Adelman, Jeremy (May 1993). Review. Journal of Latin American Studies.
25. Cambridge University Press. pp. 410–2.
Arnoldi, Henry; Hernández, Isabel (1986). Amor tirano: antología del
cancionero tradicional amoroso de Argentina. Ediciones del Sol.
Assunção, Fernando O. (2006). Historia del gaucho (in Spanish).
Claridad. ISBN 978-950-620-205-7.
Assunção, Fernando O. (1997). Pilchas criollas (in Spanish). Emecé.
Christison, David (1882). "The Gauchos of San Jorge, Central Uruguay".
The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and
Ireland. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.
11: 34–52. JSTOR 2841497.
Collier, Simon (May 1998). Review. Journal of Latin American Studies.
20. Cambridge University Press. pp. 208–210.
Cunninghame Graham, Robert Bontine (1914). El
Río de la Plata
Río de la Plata (in
Spanish). Londres: Wertheimer, Lea y Cía.
Hudson, William Henry (1895). The Naturalist in La Plata. London:
Chapman & Hall.
Hudson, William Henry (1918). Far Away and Long Ago: A History of My
Early Life. New York: E.P. Dutton and Company.
Lynch, John (August 1984). Review. The Hispanic American Historical
Review. 64. Duke University Press. pp. 586–7.
Oliven, Ruben George (2000). ""The Largest Popular Culture Movement in
the Western World": Intellectuals and Gaúcho Traditionalism in
Brazil". American Ethnologist. Wiley for the American Anthropological
Association. 21 (1): 128–146. JSTOR 647129.
Reber, Vera Blinn (July 1984). Review. The Americas. 41. Cambridge
University Press. pp. 140–1. JSTOR 1006958.
Sarmiento, Domingo Faustino (2008). El chacho. Lingkua Digital.
Slatta, Richard W. (1992). Gauchos & the Vanishing Frontier.
Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.
Slatta, Richard W.; Auld, Ku'ulani; Melrose, Maile (2004). Cradle of
Hawai'i's Paniolo. Montana: The Magazine of Western History. 54.
Montana Historical Society. pp. 2–19. JSTOR 4520605.
Shumway, Nicolas (1993). The Invention of Argentina. Berkeley; Los
Angeles; London: University of California Press.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gauchos.
(in Spanish) Tierra de Gauchos, Land of gauchos
(in Spanish) Confederacion Gaucha Argentina
(in Spanish) Folklore del Norte Argentino
(in Portuguese) Movimento Tradicionalista Gaúcho
(in Portuguese) Página do Gaúcho
Aldo Sessas – Gauchos
Richard W. Slatta – Cowboys of the Americas
The Gauchos- Horsemen of the Pampas
The Gaucho Tradition
Cowboys in the city - Buenos Aires's gaucho market - video
site of Gauchos and traditional estancias
Mounted stock herders
National symbols of Argentina
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Sun of May
Himno Nacional Argentino (National anthem)
En unión y libertad
En unión y libertad (Motto)
José de San Martín
José de San Martín (Father of the Fatherland)
Effigy of the Republic -
Gaucho (National personifications)
Ceibo (National tree)
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Ceibo flower (Floral emblem)
Hornero (National animal/National bird)
Rhodochrosite (National stone)
Pato (National sport)
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