The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic
GAUCHOS Dale watercolour of gauchos gearing horses


  • Dale-Watercolours---Marking-Cattle
  • Dale-Watercolours---Cattle-Work
  • Dale-Watercolours---Gaucho-House





‘Gaucho’ is South American terminology for a cattle hand or cowboy, a colourful, hard-working man who lives for his horse, whose tools of the trade are a knife, saddle and bolas.

Small numbers were employed on contract in the Falklands, mostly from Uruguay and Chile. Owing to the nature of their work, driving cattle over long distances, they often spent nights out of doors, with a blanket or poncho for cover, or in basic turf huts or stone shelters near a corral, where their horses would be enclosed for the night.

Turf and stone corrals were constructed in main cattle work areas or on routes for example, where cattle were driven to Stanley, or from the Northern area of the East Falkland to Hope Place saladero.  Cattle were kept in specific areas or rodeos according to their purpose.  There being no fences, which cattle would have jumped or trampled over, gauchos were constantly riding the boundaries of rodeos to keep the animals to their specific areas.  This meant overnighting in the open and in often nasty weather, eating beef from an animal killed on the spot, cooking meat over an open fire or inside pieces of hide.

Gauchos, single men from the River Plate and imported to the islands for Mr Lafone’s wild cattle hunting enterprise, in summer were well employed in camp killing cattle but in winter they irresponsibly discharged by Williams (Lafone's disreputable agent) and left poorly clothed and destitute until the next season. They flocked to Stanley and spent much of their time in the public houses (there were eight in the town by 1863). - Lieutenant George Rennie. Governor 1848-1855

Many gauchos employed in the Islands were of different nationalities, some off visiting ships.  There were Gibraltarians, French, Spanish, English and Scottish gauchos, a few from Scandinavian countries and one woman.  A few stayed and married in the Falklands, their descendants living here to this day.

Non South American gauchos had to learn to ride South American style, as well as names of horse tack and saddlery, cattle and horse colours, several place names and some terminology.  As may be imagined, being word of mouth translations, such words and terminologies became largely unlike the original Spanish. Some are still in use today, though becoming less so.

Joan Spruce

Article by Joan Spruce
Illustrations by William Dale- Copyright Dale Family

  • William Dale-1867