historic colonial architecture estates, cattle ranches
Argentina Uruguay

with links to historic estate offers, horseriding tours and guest ranches

Kolonialstil Landgüter, Rinderfarmen
Links zu Reiterreisen, Gästefarmen und Immobilien Angeboten

gauchos branding uruguay
historic cattle estate uruguay

This collection of estancia related bits and pieces is partly meant to generate additional traffic to our comercial site Uruguay farmland investment, but mainly to have a collection of nice images and text snippets you might find interesting to view. In a blog manner I on and off add a bit, or even get something sent by a like minded reader


Real Estate:

estancia historic forest estate for sale
169) 440 hectare Estancia / forestation Uruguay

estancia historic estate for sale
fsbo1) Historic Estate for sale :
167 hectare Estancia in Uruguay

estancia historic estate for sale
u289) 740 hectare rugged hill country cattle ranch Uruguay

tourist estancias, guest ranches


Ministry of Tourism


guest ranches estancias Uruguay

Guardia del Monte
San Pedro de Timote
La Paz

Estancia tours on horse back

Pegasus/Equitour portal (tri-lingual)


Argentina The Great Estancias
J.P.Quieroz, Elia
Rizzoli, ISBN 0-8478-1905-1

Antiguas Estancias del Uruguay
Javier Irureta Goyena Gomensoro
Irureta Goyena Ediciones



gaucho gorgeous
you may not have known it, there is something called Gaucho Gorgeous, according to french women's magazine


Varios painters, european and local, were travelling in the LaPlata Area in the 19th century, depicting scenes of estancia life and of the very first settlers making their way through the Pampa.

historic painting Gaucho horseback Pampa historic picture gaucho Argentina painting pulperia argentina painting / oleo Zorilla de San Martin
early pioneers with ox cart, Juan Manual Blanes, Uruguayan painter, 1870's
Raimond Quinsac Monvoisin, french painter/traveller, 1842, "Soldado de Rosas"
Pulperia (rural grocery/saloon), mid 19th century painting
rural life, 1940s painting by uruguayan artist Zorilla de San Martin

A traveller's report of the 1890s

The following is an abstract from


The entire book, highly recomendable, can be read here

The Pampas, or prairie lands of the Argentine, stretch to the south and west of Buenos Ayres, and cover some 800,000 square miles. On this vast level plain, watered by sluggish streams or shallow lakes, boundless as the ocean, seemingly limitless in extent, there is an exhilarating air and a rich herbage on which browse countless herds of cattle, horses, and flocks of sheep. The grass grows tall, and miles upon miles of rich scarlet, white, or yellow flowers mingle with or overtop it. ... Wood there is none, with the exception of a solitary tree here and there at great distances, generally marking the site of some cattle establishment or estancia. An cluster of blue gums, is certain to be planted there.
On this prairie, man, notwithstanding the fact that he is the "lord of creation," is decidedly in the minority. Millions of four-footed animals roam the plains, but he may be counted by hundreds. Let us turn to him, however, in his isolated home, for the _Gaucho_ has been described as one of the most interesting races on the face of the earth. historic pampa gaucho argentinaA descendant of the old conquerors, who, leaving their fair ones in the Spanish peninsula, took unto them as wives the unclothed women of the new world, he inherits the color and habits of the one with the vices and dignity of the other. Living the wild, free life of the Indian, and retaining the language of Spain; the finest horseman of the world, and perhaps the worst assassin; the most open- handed and hospitable, yet the accomplished purloiner of his neighbor's cattle; imitating the Spaniard in the beautifully-chased silver trappings of his horse, and the untutored Indian in his miserable adobe hovel; spending his whole wealth in heavy gold or silver bell-shaped stirrups, bridle, or spurs (the rowel of the latter sometimes having a diameter of six inches), and leaving his home destitute of the veriest necessities of life--such is the Gaucho. A horn or shell from the river's bed makes his spoon, gourds provide him with his plates and dishes; but his knife, with gold or silver handle and sheath, is almost a little fortune in itself. Content in his dwelling to sit on a bullock's skull, on horseback his saddle must be mounted in silver. His own beard and hair he seldom trims, but his horse's mane and tail must be assiduously tended. The baked-mud floor of his abode is littered with filth and dirt, while he raves at a speck of mud on his embroidered silk saddle-cloth.

The Gaucho is a strange contradiction. He has blushed at my good but plain-looking saddle, yet courteously asked me to take a skull seat. He may possess five hundred horses, but you search his kitchen in vain for a plate. If you please him he will present you with his best horse, waving away your thanks. If you displease him, his long knife will just as readily find its way to your heart, for he kills his enemies with as little compunction as he kills the ostrich. "The Gaucho, with his proud and dissolute air, is the most unique of all South American characters. He is courageous and cruel, active and tireless. Never more at ease than when on the wildest horse; on the ground, out of his element. His politeness is excessive, his nature fierce." The children do not, like ours, play with toys, but delight the parents' hearts by teasing a cat or dog. ....

To describe the dress of this descendant of Adam I feel myself incapable. A shirt and a big slouch hat seem to be the only articles of attire like ours. Coat, trousers or shoes he does not wear. Instead of the first mentioned, he uses the _poncho_, a long, broad blanket, with a slit in the centre to admit his head. For trousers he wears very wide white drawers, richly embroidered with broad needlework and stiffly starched. Over these he puts a black _chirip? which really I cannot describe other than as similar to the napkins the mother provides for her child. Below this black and white leg covering come the long boots, made from one piece of seamless hide. These boots are nothing more than the skin from the hind legs of an animal--generally a full-grown horse. The bend of the horse's leg makes the boot's heel. Naturally the toes protrude, and this is not sewn up, for the Gaucho never puts more than his big toe in the stirrup, which, like the bit in his horse's mouth, must be of solid silver. A dandy will beautifully scallop these rawhide boots around the tops and toes, and keep them soft with an occasional application of grease. No heel is ever attached. Around the man's waist, holding up his drawers and chiripa, is wound a long colored belt, with tasseled ends left hanging over his boot, down the right side; and over that he invariably wears a broad skin belt, clasped at the front with silver and adorned all around with gold or silver coins. In this the long knife is carried.
What shall I say of the domestic life of these people? Unfortunately, marriage is practically unknown among them. The father gives his son a few cattle, and the young man, after building himself a house, conducts thither his chosen one. Unhappily, constancy in either man or woman is a rare virtue. .....

If entertaining a stranger, he will press uncut joint after joint of his _asado_ upon him. This asado is meat roasted over the fire on a spit; if beef, with the skin and hair still attached. Meat cooked in this way is a real delicacy. A favorite dish with them (I held a different opinion) is a half-formed calf, taken before its proper time of birth. The meat is often dipped in the ashes in lieu of salt. I have said the Gaucho has no chair. I might add that neither has he a table, for with his fingers and knife he eats the meat off the fire. Forks he is without, and a horn or shell spoon conveys the soup to his mouth direct from the copper pan. So universal is the use of the shell for this service that the native does not speak of it as _caracol_, the real word for shell, but calls it _cuchara del agua_, or water spoon. Of knives he possesses more than enough, and heavy, long, sharp-pointed ones they are. When his hunger is appeased the knife goes, not to the kitchen, but to his belt, where, when not in his hand, you may always see it. With that weapon he kills a sheep, cuts off the head of a serpent--seemingly, however, not doing it much harm, for it still wriggles--sticks his horse when in anger, and, alas, as I have said, sometimes stabs his fellow-man. Being so far isolated from the coast, he is necessarily entirely uneducated. The forward march of the outer world concerns him not; indeed he imagines that his native prairie stretches away to the end of the world. He will gaze with wonder on your watch, for his only mode of ascertaining the time is by the shadow the sun casts. As that luminary rises and sets, so he sleeps and wakes. His only bed is the sheepskin, which when riding he fastens over his saddle, and the latter article forms his pillow. His coverlet is the firmament of heaven, the Southern Cross and other constellations, unseen by dwellers in the Northern Hemisphere, seeming to keep watch over him; or in the colder season his poncho, which I have already described. Around his couch flit the fireflies, resembling so many stars of earth with their strangely radiant lights. The brightness of one, when held near the face of my watch, made light enough to enable me to ascertain the hour, even on the darkest night. ....

When the Gaucho cannot obtain a better meal, the tail of the lizard is not considered such a despicable dish by him, for he is no epicure. When he has nothing he is also contented. His philosophy is: _"Nunca tenga hambre cuando no hay que comer"_ (Never be hungry when no food is to be had).

The estancia, or cattle ranch, is a feature of the Argentine prairie. Some of these establishments are very large, even up to one hundred square miles in extent. On them hundreds of thousands of cattle, sheep and horses are herded. "It is not improbable that there are more cattle in the pampas and llanos of South America than in all the rest of the world." [Footnote: Dr. Hartwig in "Argentina," 1910] An estancia is almost invariably called by the name of some saint, as are the different fields belonging to it. "Holy Mary field" and "Saint Joseph field" are common names. Notwithstanding the fact that there may be thousands of cows on a ranch, the visitor may be unable to get a drop of milk to drink. "Cows are not made to milk, but to eat," they say. Life on these establishments is rough and the fare generally very coarse. Even among the wealthy people I have visited you may sit down to dinner with nothing but meat put before you, without a bite of bread or any vegetables. All drink water out of an earthenware pitcher of peculiar shape, which is the centrepiece of the table.

Douglas Fairbanks The Gaucho Douglas Fairbanks in movie The Gaucho
One cool gaucho : Douglas Fairbanks as The Gaucho in 1927
The following is an abstract from US newspaper Startrebune about a horse riding tour in Uruguay

Uruguayan rhythm
Thus went our days: Ride on the beach. Eat. Ride on the beach some more. With some odd adventures thrown in to keep things interesting.
One day, after our morning ride down the beach, we drove inland to an estancia -- a ranch -- called Guardia del Monte, Guard of the Forest. The 2,500-acre spread is small by Uruguayan standards, but special for a couple of other reasons. One of them is that it contains one of the only ombu-tree forests in the world. As we drove down its long gravel driveway we could see these cartoonish trees with fat broad trunks topped by a tangled spread of branches.
The ranch-house itself was gorgeous, with stone walls overgrown with long sprays of blooming bougainvillea. The lady of the house, Alicia Fernandez de Servetto, gave us a tour, explaining that the ranch was built in the 1800s and much of its construction materials came from shipwrecks on Uruguay's treacherous coast. The French tile roof had been ballast in the hold of one ship. The giant woodstove in the kitchen was pulled from the remains of the English ship Gainford, which sank in 1870. The columns holding up the arbor in the courtyard were sections of mast from another foundered vessel.
Alicia served us one of the best meals of the week. It was typically Uruguayan -- an asado. That means meat cooked over a wood fire and coals. In Uruguay, the grill itself is a brick or stone fireplace with slanted iron grating suited to roast a whole sheep. The meal consisted of grilled lamb, fresh giant green beans, boiled potatoes, deviled eggs, fresh bread, an Uruguayan version of coleslaw and for dessert, caramel flan. The lamb was crispy, tender with a wonderfully salty flavor. "The lamb grown here has a special taste because of the grasses they eat in the salt marshes," Alicia said. "It is special to this place."
We spent the afternoon on a long lazy ride on her ranch, bird-watching in the salt marshes and cantering between the weird ombu trees (which, we were told, actually aren't trees at all, but overgrown herbs).

My favorite day on the trip was the longest: We spent more than eight hours in the saddle and rode more than 30 miles. We never saw another human being; we never saw a building. Just the sea, the sky and the sand of the endless beach. By this time, I'd grown to like my horse and understand his quirks. Joselo had told me he didn't have a name, so I called him Pokey. He nudged me with his head each morning when I scratched his ears, and it might have been my imagination, but he seemed to raise his eyebrows in agreement with whatever was on my mind. It was a joy to be on the same, reliable horse for several days running. For the first time in my irregular career as a rider, I felt comfortable and balanced cantering and galloping. I came up alongside Valeria Ariza, who herself looked very blissed out in the sun and solitude of the day. I said that this was amazing. I didn't think there were places like this left in the world.
"What I really like about this is that after two hours of riding, riding, riding with nothing but beach and all this vastness around you, you start to feel very small," she said. "It's hard to find words to tell how nothing can be so beautiful."

abandoned estancia Uruguay Throughout the second half of the 20th century farming income hardly paid to maintain a historic stately casco de estancia

In 2009 and 2010 I took a few photos of abandoned cascos close to our farm in Uruguay, southern department of Florida.

A brief overview of Estancia Architecture in Uruguay

The Early Estancias - before 1880

These early times were more often than not quite insecure in the country side.
19th century estancia Fraile Muerto Various civil wars rage through the country. The cattle and the Gauchos still roam free. The Gaucho myth, proud, freedom loving, and quick with his knife originates from that era.
Foreign trade is still little developed, so is prosperity.

Estancias from that period are massive and simple structures, with thick walls made of field stone. Typically spanish colonial , they have heavy iron, sometimes wrought iron windows grills, at times even the gallery protected, floor to ceiling, by wrought iron. Tipical as well is the Mirador, the ("watch") tower room, meant to give the building a stately impression.

Usually the buildings form a court yard, with a cistern (aljibe) in the center.

The times of prosperity, Fin de Siecle - 1880-1920

During this period Uruguay, together with Argentina, becomes one of the richest countries in the world. San Pedro The advance of world trade by steam ships and by railway lines in the interior, together with modern agriculture, the introduction of European sheep and cattle races, makes it possible that Uruguayan agro products like beef, wool , grain are being exported all over the world.
Many European emmigrants settle in Uruguay, foreign capital and know how arrives as well.
The estancieros get rich, the estancias get grand and stately.
Due to this kind of early globalisation the architectural styles get more diversified, too.

The mediterranian- or spanish-colonial style

is still determined by the traditional pattern of inner court yard, heavy iron window grills, a gallery resting on massive stone pillars, etc. San Eugenio
But everything being more grand, more ornamented than in the past. Sometimes overloaded.
Building is done by brick, rather than field stone, steel girders are used. Interior rooms are bigger, so are windows. Stucco ornaments are richer than before.

It is a style quite similiar to the mansions which the rural upperclass of Southern Italy and Southern Spain are building at that time.

Estilo Ingles

Everything else is sometimes refered to as "Estilo Ingles" (english style), or "Europeo" or "Tipo Chalet". It is often influenced by rural english or french Normandy or Basque Country architecture, reflecting the North West European origin it's owners
Basically , if it has got a saddleback roof, it can be named that way.
Estancia Anchorena It could be a simple square building, ("Tipo Chalet"), or, more traditionally, L or U shaped, forming a court yard, or actually any shape.

The quintessential estancia Estilo Ingles would be the huge Estancia Presidencial Anchorena, where the President of Uruguay resides over weekend or when receiving guests.


Jackie Kennedy on Estancia in South America
Jacqueline Kennedy in 1966 at Estancia San Miguel, Argentina.


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some more images bits and pieces on South American grand estates
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