To a gaucho knife skills were essential keys to their very survival. Knowing how to wield a knife in combat was as important as understanding how to use the blade to help prepare food. A finely honed knife served many purposes and it was usually kept on their person or occasionally in a saddle bag.
In Uruguay and many other South American countries the independent gauchos rode proudly. Many were solitary loners who lived a very nomadic existence. They also wore many different hats as cattle herders, expert equestrians and freedom fighters.
Today most of the people of Uruguay consider the iconic gaucho to be a symbol of their country's independence and national pride.
The first gauchos in South America were mestizos. These were men whose family tree included European or, Andalusian, bloodlines as well as some ancestors who were native born. Many of these individuals felt as though they did not belong in the restrictive societies of the day and they were immediately drawn to the restless, changing world of the gaucho community.
It is said that the early gauchos were genetically destined to live nomadic existences just as they were born with equestrian skills and seemingly self-reliant characteristics. The blood that flowed through their veins is also said to have given a passion for music and romance to these South American cowboys.
To a gaucho living in the 17th, 18th or 19th century it was imperative that they have a dependable weapon. This type knife was a serviceable instrument that could be used for the butchering of animals as easily as it could be used to fend off a predator. A firearm was not nearly as suited for their fast paced life as a sharp blade.
In addition to foraging for food and searching for cattle the gauchos would catch wild horses and then break them so that they could be ridden, sold or traded. A gaucho saddle was not a necessity because these expert horsemen could easily ride bareback.
The horses were highly valued both by the gauchos and by other settlers and would never be slaughtered without good cause. The cattle that roamed the hills and countryside were not only a valuable trading commodity they provided these men with an abundance of ready food.
The first styles of gaucho saddles were made from a wooden frame covered in a combination of leather, cloth or sheepskin.
This gaucho accessory could also be used for a bed at night once it was placed on the ground. Although a saddle was an important piece of property it was the gaucho knife that was held in the highest esteem.
For an experienced gaucho knife skills helped him in a variety of ways. His 3rd arm was all he needed to chop food or tobacco leaves. The knife could also be used to splice leather or as a rugged hoof pick.
If there was an argument most gauchos had a distinct advantage once they brought their knife into play. Even someone with a firearm was considered to be outmatched by the typical, battle hardened gaucho who was wielding a razor sharp knife which was generally called a facon.