The Falkland Islands and South Atlantic


  • Dale-Watercolours---Marking-Cattle
  • Dale-Watercolours---Cattle-Work
  • Wild-cattle-volunteers-P-Hume





Cattle and other domestic animals were brought to the Islands by the French in 1760 when they occupied Port Louis.  Sailing from St. Malo, in France to Montevideo,  animals were acquired there, thus saving them a long sea voyage.  The French named the Islands after St Malo, ‘Iles Malouines’.

The French left the Falklands in 1767, being replaced by the Spanish, and the cattle were beginning to multiply. By the time the Spanish left, there were large herds of cattle who were by this time very wild. Next at Port Louis, Vernet, appointed by the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata, to be Governor of what the Spanish called Islas Malvinas,   brought in cattle hands ‘gauchos’ from South America to undertake cattle work. 

There were periods when no one was resident in the Islands cattle numbers increased to many thousand, roaming freely, with equally wild horses, over East Falkland. Some were later taken to West Falkland where they multiplied too.

Caught and killed on the coasts by seal and penguin hunters, the herds were not fully utilized until the British settled at Port Louis, Falkland Islands in 1833 also employing gauchos from South America.

The cattle lived in relative peace on East Falkland until the Lafone brothers from Montevideo set up a saladero (meat salting establishment and export of salted hides) at Hope Place where Gauchos were employed on contract, to undertake various duties involved with the saladero.

Naval patrols round the Islands reported descriptions of cattle, including numbers and  colours of animals. Near Mount Usborne, these were lead coloured leading to dark brown further South, whilst seen from Choisuel Sound they were reportedly ‘as white dots’ on the hillside.

Cattle where hunted by entangling their legs with the bolas or bolladeros, a hunting implement comprising three balls of stones or lead joined together by three lengths of hide.  Being cast the animals were then slaughtered for their hides.  Salted hides were salted for export, whilst salt and fresh beef was sold to passing ships or the town. Herds were divided into various categories including old animals (for slaughter) others were castrated, milk cows being kept for milk production, cheese and butter.

Eventually the cattle ‘industry’ gave way to sheep, whose wool was a more lucrative export.

Joan Spruce

Article by Joan Spruce
Photographs of bull at Volunteer Point by Peter Hume
Illustrations by William Dale- Copyright Dale Family

  • William Dale-1867