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The National Sport of Argentina is Pato.

Pato combines elements of polo and basketball, creating a unique and exhilarating game beloved by Argentinians.

To learn more about sports culture in Argentina, read our article about the most popular sports in Argentina.


#1 History of Pato

  • 17th century: Pato’s origin can be traced back to this century when Argentine gauchos played the game using a live duck (pato in Spanish) placed in a basket.
  • 1930: Due to animal cruelty concerns, the game transformed, using a leather ball with six handles instead of a live duck.
  • 1953: The Argentine Pato Federation (FederaciΓ³n Argentina de Pato y Horseball) was established to oversee and regulate the sport.
  • 1955: Pato was officially declared as Argentina’s National Sport by then-President Juan PerΓ³n.
  • 1980s-present: The sport has gradually gained popularity, extending its reach beyond rural areas and into the urban population.

#2 Culture and Traditions

Pato plays an essential role in Argentina’s cultural identity, especially in rural communities where the game was first played. The sport is deeply rooted in Argentina’s gaucho heritage, and its history is intertwined with the rich customs and traditions of the country’s proud and skilled horsemen.

Several festivals, rituals, and events are associated with Pato. One of the most notable annual celebrations is the DΓ­a Nacional del Pato, which features exciting Pato matches and attracts players and fans from across Argentina. Rural Pato tournaments also serve as social gatherings, where spectators bond over traditional music, dancing, and Argentine barbecues known as asados.

Today, Pato’s cultural significance continues to thrive. Efforts to promote and preserve the sport include the organization of national championships and initiatives to introduce Pato to younger generations, ensuring the tradition remain an integral part of Argentina’s cultural fabric.

#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment

πŸ“• Rules & Gameplay

  • Teams: Pato is played by two teams with four players each.
  • Objective: Players aim to score by throwing the ball through a vertically hanging hoop, located at each end of the field.
  • Gameplay: The game begins with a “throw off” at midfield, and players on horseback use their hands to catch, carry, and pass the ball among their teammates.
  • Scoring: A team scores a point when a player successfully throws the ball through the opponent’s hoop.
  • Duration: Pato matches last 90 minutes, divided into two 45-minute halves with a 10-minute halftime break.

βš™οΈ Equipment & Gear

  • Ball: A leather ball with six protruding handles, known as a “pato,” replaces the traditional live duck used in early versions of the game.
  • Hoops: Suspended from a 7.6-foot pole, the hoop is 3.9 feet in diameter and has a net underneath to catch the ball when it passes through.
  • Clothing: Players often wear traditional gaucho attire, including wide-brimmed hats, bombachas (loose-fitting trousers), and boots, which showcase the sport’s historical roots.
  • Horses: As an equestrian sport, players require a well-trained horse capable of quickly navigating the field and responding to the rider’s commands.

#4 Modern Development of Pato

In recent decades, Pato has undergone a gradual evolution to adapt to contemporary times. Newer game strategies and improved riding techniques have enhanced the competitiveness and entertainment value of the sport. Modern Pato players are faster, more agile, and incorporate a higher level of athleticism than in earlier generations.

Cultural and technological advancements also influence the sport. The widespread use of the internet and social media, for example, provides opportunities for Pato enthusiasts to connect and share ideas, fostering a greater sense of community among fans and promoting global interest in the sport. Technological innovations in equestrian gear and equipment have also enhanced player safety and allowed for more refined performance.

However, Pato’s growth has also resulted in challenges, such as potential commercialization and the loss of some traditional aspects. Still, many dedicated players, organizations, and fans work diligently to preserve and promote Pato’s authentic cultural essence, ensuring the sport remains true to its roots, while embracing modern developments.

#5 Pato and the Olympics

Although Pato has not been featured in the modern Olympic Games, its rich history and cultural significance make it a valuable component of Argentina’s sporting heritage. Pato’s absence from the international event might be attributed to its primarily regional nature, being mostly played within Argentina and not widely recognized globally.

The Olympic Games could serve as an excellent platform for Pato to gain global recognition and showcase Argentina’s unique sport. However, it is important to highlight that the sport has yet to make its Olympic debut. Until then, Pato enthusiasts can enjoy and promote the sport through national and regional competitions, generating interest and raising awareness both within Argentina and beyond.

#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements

  1. Julio Cesar Decilio: A renowned Pato player and six-time Argentine Champion, Decilio has received numerous accolades for his exceptional skills and sportsmanship in Pato tournaments.
  2. Victor Pucci: With over 25 years of experience, Pucci has been honored as one of the best Pato players of his generation and has represented Argentina in international equestrian events.
  3. Vanina Onetto: A leading female Pato player, Onetto not only excels in the sport but also actively advocates for the promotion and inclusion of women in Pato, earning her both national and international recognition.
  4. Jorge Alvaro Coppel: Known for his exceptional expertise in both Pato and Polo, Coppel has been a prominent figure in Argentine equestrian sports and has claimed multiple National Pato Championships throughout his career.

#7 Where to watch Pato

  • Broadcasting and streaming options: While Pato is not as widely televised or streamed as other sports, local Argentine channels and online platforms occasionally cover important events, such as the Argentine Pato Championship and regional tournaments.
  • Notable venues: For an authentic Pato experience, visit traditional Pato fields or “canchas” in Argentina’s rural areas, where local clubs and communities host competitive matches. Additionally, the Campo Argentino de Pato in Buenos Aires is a premier venue that regularly showcases high-level Pato events within the country.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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