Title: South American Gauchos at the "Wild West" | A few Facts compiled by John M. Burke

Date: 1892

Author: Burke, John M., 1842-1917

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A few Facts compiled by John M. Burke.

MESSRS. CODY AND SALSBURY, of the "Wild West," are ransacking all quarters of the earth in their design of bringing together, to compete for equestrian prowess in the arena of the "Wild West" at Earl's Court, a congress (that shall be complete) of races and types of the world's most celebrated horsemen.

Not content with assembling, in friendly rivalry, Cowboys, Indians, Vacqueros, and Cossacks, tribute has now been levied on the distant Pampas of South America.

In other works, Buffalo Bill has now added to his already sufficiently marvellous programme a band of Gauchos from the Llanos of the Argentine Republic. The Argentine has absorbed more than its fair share of British public attention of late in connection with finance; but, though the speculative portion of the public would perhaps receive with equal enthusiasm consignments of gold coin from that distant quarter of the Americas, all will be glad to learn of the arrival of the Gauchos.

The latest arrivals at Buffalo Bill's "Wild West" make the sixth delegation to the "Congress of the Rough Riders of the World," which Messrs. Cody and Salsbury are organising in order to present the different schools of horsemanship at the Chicago World's Fair. London is the only place that will be favoured with a view of a portion of the same, as the engagement at Earl's Court is the POSITIVE FAREWELL, ABSOLUTE FINALE of this ethnological exhibition.

Having seen the performances of the Cowboy, the Indian, the Vacquero, and lastly, of the Cossacks of the Caucasian line, our appetites are considerably whetted at the prospect of seeing how wild life on the South American Pampas contrasts with theirs.

To the student of human progress, of racial peculiarities, of national characteristies, the Gauchos are a subject of investigation as remarkable as anything modern history has to show.

The Gaucho differs in many respects from the other rough riders of the only partially civilised sections of the earth. He is the product of a peculiar scheme of existence, and of savage conditions of life, that obtain in no part of the world save on the boundless Llanos of South America and the Prairies of the North.

The Gauchos are the descendants of the early Spanish colonisers of the South American Wilds, The fiery Hispanolian temperament, the infusion of the native Indian blood, together with the wild lonely [li] fe on the ocean-like Pampas, are the conditions responsible for the production of the Gauchos.

Unlike the Anglo-Saxon race, which conquers or elevates to its own standard of civilisation, or obliterates through its force of character the primitive peoples it comes in contact with, many other races seem to drift towards the savage surroundings encountered, and with a pliability foreign to the sturdy Northern peoples, adapt much of the habits, customs, peculiarities of their neighbours, and by miscegenation eventually produce a new growth, possessing many of the features of a combination of both the parent trees.

The civilisation that the Spanish colonists took with them to the Llanos gradually became subdued by the savagery of the new situation, until their descendants, the Gauchos, were as wild and ferocious as the aborigines, the Indiaus. They were, forsooth, compelled to adopt in no small degree the manners and customs of these latter as a means of subsistence.

Like the North American Indian, the Cowboy, the Vacquero, the Cossack, and the Prairie Scout, now for the first time in history his companion horsemen (at Earl's Court), the Gaucho is a near approach to the mythical centaur. Like them (probably more so) the Gaucho spends the greater portion of his life on horseback, and is associated with the wild equines of the Pampas in even a more intense degree than any of the equestrian races.

In no other part of the world has man been so completely dependent on the horse as on the South American plains. The Pampas without horses would be, for the uses of man, as an ocean without ships or boats. Hence this Gaucho breed of centaurs is the natural growth of peculiar surroundings.

From his earliest infancy the half wild horses have been inseparably associated with his daily doings. At an age when the English or American child is learning to stand on his feet without the assistance of his nurse, the infant Gaucho is being taught by its fond mother to balance itself on the backs of colts of the herd. At four years of age he has learned to ride the wildest colt that roams the Pampas, and is henceforth, to all intents and purposes, an integral portion of the animal he bestrides, no more to be dismounted against his will than if he and the horse were really parts of one creature.

As the Gauchos are reputed to be the most expert lassoers in the world, considerable interest is manifested in their arrival, not only by the public, but by the Cowboys, Indians, &c. Apart from their wild fantastic personality of dress, manner, and equipment, and their horsemanship, the Gauchos will be interesting as the first to introduce to the British public the use of the "bolas," for the capturing of wild animals. This instrument of the chase has been adopted by the Gauchos from the South American Indians, who, from time immemorial, used it for the capture of ostriches, guanacos, and other big game.

A truly wild scene is a troop of Gauchos in pursuit of a herd of wild animals, or a flock of ostriches (their own horses almost as wild as the game), hurling with unerring skill the deadly "bolas," and bringing some one of the fleeing quarry heavily to earth at every cast.

The "bolas" consists of a number of raw-hide thongs, fastened to a central thong, and with an iron ball at each of the ends. The Gaucho can hurl this at a flying horse, cow, or ostrich, from a distance of sixty feet, and, causing it to inextricably entangle about the legs, bring the victim helplessly to the ground. This therefore, rather than the lasso, is his favourite weapon for the chase or fighting in war.

When the Dictator Rosas many years ago conquered Buenos Ayres, his succcss was largely due to the terror inspired by the reputation of his horde of Gauchos and Pampa Indians. On their approach a panic seized the inhabitants, who made no resistance, being completely terrorised into submission by the presence of the "bolas" -throwing wild horsemen.

The Gauchos are also phenomenal trailers. Fennimore Cooper has immortalised the sleuth-like Indian of the North tracking his foe with a fearful skill and persistance half across a pathless continent. We have read of Cuban bloodhounds on the scent of the runaway slave; our beau-ideal of Eastern pathfinders is the Bedouin of the Arabian deserts, but all these are babes in the art to the Gauchos of the Argentine Pampas.

It may be interesting to state that from their primitive mode of existence, the Gaucho makes nearly everything connected with his "outfit," even the rude saddle from raw hide, the lasso, the "bolas," and even his boots — which are made from the skin (taken from the knee down, and shaped to the leg and foot while warm) of a freshly killed colt, sewed at the toe, thus forming practically a leather stocking without heel or sole. They are fond of music, are good dancers, retaining in many respects the poetic traditions and tendencies of their Castilian ancestors.

Enough has been said here, however, of their peculiarities. They will prove a welcome acquisition to the "Wild West," for they, no less than the Cossacks, have a distinct role of their own to play in this truly gigantic enterprise of a "Congress of the World's Rough Riders."

Title: South American Gauchos at the "Wild West" | A few Facts compiled by John M. Burke

Source: McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody Collection, MS6, MS6.3778.083.01 (1892 London)

Date: 1892

Author: Burke, John M., 1842-1917

Topics: Congress of Rough Riders

Keywords: American Indians Anglo-Saxons Bedouins Bolas Centaurs Clothing and dress Cossacks Cowboys Ethnic costume Exhibitions Farewells Gauchos Georgians (South Caucasians) Guanaco Horsemanship Horsemen and horsewomen Horses Indians of North America Indians of South America Lesser rhea Manners and customs Mexicans Scouts (Reconnaissance) Scrapbooks Traveling exhibitions Wild horses World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.)

People: Burke, John M., 1842-1917 Rosas, Juan Manuel de, 1793-1877

Places: Buenos Aires (Argentina) Earl's Court (London, England) London (England) Pampas (Argentina)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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