patoo_game.jpgpatoo_game.jpgThe National Sport of Argentina: Pato
By: Trevor Bohne

Pato is the name of the national sport of Argentina and is spanish for "duck". Although the sport of Pato is considered the national sport of Argentina, it is much less popular than the Argentinean sports of soccer and basketball . Pato combines components of the equestrian sport polo and the sport of basketball and is played entirely on horseback.
Present Day Game of Pato

How is Pato Played?
The sport of Pato originated in Argentina in the sixteenth century when Gauchos would use the vast amounts of land on their ranches to create a playing field. The earliest games of Pato were played using a live duck as the object that would be scored in the teams nets. The duck was usually placed in a basket that had up to six handles on it. The object of the game was to try to score the ball, or Pato, into the other teams net more times than they were able to score in your teams net. The teams nets were placed at opposite ends of the playing field. The game started off by having the strongest man on each team tug on the handles of the Pato until one of them let go causing possession of the Pato to become established. The team with possession of the Pato would then ride on horseback with the Pato to the opposing teams net and try to score it through the net. patopickup.jpg The player that is in possession of the Pato rides with his right arm outstretched while holding the Pato so that opposing players may try to steal the Pato away. When an opposing player grabs the Pato, a tugging situation is created called the Cinchada. The Cinchada is quite possibly the most exciting part of the game as players must ride standing in the stirrups and hold onto the reins with one hand.
History of Pato
The sport of Pato originated during the period of Spanish inquisition when many European horse breeds were brought to the Americas. Argentina is a country with a strong equestrian history and so makes sense that their national sport is played on horseback. During the history of the sport, Pato was banned several times due to its dangerous nature. Many Gauchos were trampled by horses during the game and the actual Duck inside the basket often died before the game was finished. Also, because of the competitive nature of the game, Gauchos often started knife-fights during the game that resulted in many lost lives. In the late eighteenth century, in an attempt to make Pato safer, many Catholic priests in Argentina began denying proper christian burial to any person killed during the sporting event. In the early 1930's the sport of Pato was re-energized through the efforts of ranch owner Alberto del Castillo Posse, who drafted the first set of official Pato rules. The sport of Pato gained much popularity and legitimacy after Posse's rules were drafted and in 1953 the President of Argentina at the time, Juan Peron, declared it as Argentina's national sport.
Juan Peron (Click on Picture for Link)

Modern Day Pato

The sport of Pato today has changed dramatically since its creation in the sixteenth century. The game is still played entirely on horseback with two teams of four players each. Pato is played on a field with the dimensions of length: 180 to 220 meters and width: 80 to 90 meters. Pato today is no longer played with a live bird inside of a bag with handles. Instead, the modern-day Pato ball is essentially a regulation size futbol with six large handles attached to it. Pato is played in intervals of 6, 8-minute periods. The team with the most points scored at the end of the 6 periods is the declared winner. Today the sport of Pato is considered the national pastime of Argentina even though sports like futbol and basketball are much more popular among Argentines. El Federacion Argentina de Pato was founded in 1941 to promote, manage, and disseminate the game of Pato, organize tournaments and ensure the implementation of regulations, while guiding and promoting the breeding of the fittest type of horses for the game. Because of the Pato Federation in Argentina, the sport of Pato has become much more well-known and has even caused impostor sports to pop up in Europe and other places around the world. Horseball , is a twin sister-sport to Pato that is essentially the same game with a different title because of the historical ties to the name "Pato" and Argentina. Horseball is well-known in Europe and has the same rules and regulations as modern-day Pato.

Pato Vocabulary
The word "Pato" itself is spanish for the word "Duck" because early games of Pato involved using a live duck placed inside a bag as the ball. In the early beginnings of Pato, gauchos would play on large ranches and instead of playing with nets, would decide a winner by seeing who could ride with the Pato to the ranch house the fastest. The term given to the ranch houses was Casco which translates in spanish to "Helmet". The ranch houses were considered safe houses during the game of Pato because once a ranch house was reached, a point was awarded and the game would temporarily be stopped. The term "helmet" is taken to mean protective and safe so ranch houses were coined as Cascos or safe houses. During the game of Pato, the player with posession must hold the Pato in his outstretched right hand to offer it for opposing players to try and steal away. The refusal to hold the Pato outstretched is called Negada, which translates to "refusal" is english. As mentioned above, the Cinchada is the term used to identify when players are fighting for possession of the Pato by tugging at it. Cinchada has a literal translation in english to "tug-of-war". Modern-day Pato is played at weekend fairs which usually includes many festivities and other events. Usually a game of Pato is played alongside an Argentine rodeo or Doma.


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