How horses have influenced polo in Argentina

How horses have influenced polo in Argentina

Polo - the Sport of Kings and the inspiration behind the pampeano signature design. One of the most popular equine sports worldwide, and nowhere more so than the home of polo, Argentina. But how exactly did the country claim that mantle? And more specifically, what was the role of horses in Argentine culture in the rise of the sport? Read on in this journal entry to find out more all about how the culture and popularity of horses in Argentina lead to the development of the sport in Argentine society.

First of all, we need to understand where polo actually came from. An early version of the game was played by the nomadic people of Iran and Turkey, but the sport that we would recognise today originated in India. British soldiers brought the sport back to the UK during the time of the empire, and it began to spread to wherever the British went. Eventually, in the late 19th Century, British settlers in Argentina brought it to their shores. As the British would play the sport in their free time, the local Argentinians picked up the rules and began playing for themselves. Soon, they became much better than the British at their own game.

Polo ponies walking back to the stable

It's no mystery why the people of Argentina would pick up the game so quickly and effectively; the Argentine culture is one of horsemanship. Historically, all over the world, horses have been a crucial part of cultural development, from agriculture to war to transport to, of course, sport. Argentina is no different. Agriculture always has been and continues to be an incredibly crucial part of the overall Argentine society at large. Most Argentine people in the 19th century would have not only been able to ride, but would have taken great care of their horses and loved them dearly. This would have allowed them to quickly use their connection to the horses to dominate in sports like polo which rely so much on that bond.

Argentina was a perfect place for polo to develop as a sport, partly because of the great plains you see all over the country. These plains or 'La Pampas' acted as natural polo fields, and still do, and the Argentine people revel in playing on their home turf, on their own land they work to produce crops year-round.

Tree in the middle of a field in the sunset

Another important reason that Argentina was a perfect fit for polo to thrive is the cultural concept of the Gaucho. The Gaucho is the Argentine equivalent of the cowboy in the USA - grizzled chiselled loners with an emphasis on honour, cattle herding and of course, horsemanship. These weren't just mythical figures - although they do have a certain legendary status in Argentina - but also a very real part of farming life, particularly back in the 1800s. These Gauchos also took part in the sport of polo, bringing their unique expertise and passion for horses to the game.

The game was expanded by the inherent competitive nature of humans, and the people began splitting into teams based on their village, the farm they worked for or region they lived in. This team spirit we see all over the world and in all sports. It's safe to assume that there was some competition between the British settlers and the Argentine locals, too. To differentiate one team from the next, they would denote their team colours with intricately handcrafted, threaded designs of leather belt - this design and heritage developed over the years, eventually becoming the luxury leather polo belts you see today, no better than here on the pampeano website: peruse our broad range of designs all inspired by the tradition of polo playing in Argentina.

Saddle on a horse with a patterned blanket