The gaucho game of pato

When it comes to watching the extraordinary skills of a gaucho on horseback, little can compare to watching them compete in the Argentine national sport of 'pato'.

 Two four-member teams fight for possession of a ball which has 6 leather handles.

Two four-member teams fight for possession of a ball which has 6 leather handles.

'Pato' is the Spanish for 'duck' and early games were played using a live duck in a basket instead of a ball. Gauchos from neighbouring estancias would compete to see which team could get the duck back to their own 'casco' or ranch house and so be declared the winner.

Not surprisingly the duck has now been replaced with a ball, and modern pato has its' roots in a set of rules inspired by polo, drafted back in the 1930's.

 The goals are vertically positioned rings, one either end of the ground, usually with netting attached.

The goals are vertically positioned rings, one either end of the ground, usually with netting attached.

It is a fast and furious game that makes it a fantastic spectators sport. Probably the most exciting part of the game is when the ball falls to the ground and the gauchos have to pick it up from their horses . . .at a gallop! Definitely not for the faint-hearted!

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