Stone corrals feature from the earliest days of settlement in the Falkland Islands. Many were built by people trying to make use of the wild cattle which roamed all over East Falkland.
These herds originated from sealers who would place a few beasts ashore to ensure that supplies of fresh meat were available when they next called. The cattle bred until there were many thousands on the East and later some were put ashore north of Port Howard, where they bred into large herds also.
Early settlers gained hides and fresh meat from the herds, while some were domesticated to provide dairy products.
Two brothers named Lafone, who ran a beef salting business in Uruguay, set up a Saladero at Hope Place (south of Darwin) and brought in a number of families and Gauchos, establishing a salting industry and settlement.
The Gauchos were chiefly involved in organising the wild cattle herds – culling old animals, moving herds to Stanley for butchering and to various grazing grounds. Corrals were necessary for keeping the cattle together during overnight stops on a long drive. They were also used for the sorting of animals and some of the small corrals were used for resting horses.
While others settlers to the north of the Falklands also built corrals, there are fewer stone corrals on West Falkland – probably because the cattle herds that existed on the West were killed off more rapidly to make way for sheep farming.
Corrals were built with whatever materials were available – stone, if the structure was needed near a beach, stone run or rock outcrop, turf if stone was not available.
Stone corrals are all built in the dry stone walling fashion and most are circular. A stake would be driven into the ground, probably with a long lasso looped over it to mark out the circle.
The Sapper Hill corral is mentioned in the Government records of 1850;
“This corral is situated in a valley on the South side of Sappers Hill, this wall of stones, laid dry in an oval form. The wall measured 742 feet in length. There is a ditch on the inside. A wide gateway to the left. The wall is 6 feet thick at the base, 3 feet at the top and 7 feet high. The corral is calculated to hold 1,000 head of cattle. There are no fixtures in it, nor any poles for the gateway… Although included in the Land known as the Peninsula Farm, it is not chargeable with the rent by the tenant…”
Records show that this large corral was built by Jacob Napoleon Goss on instructions from the Governor at the time.
The area was once a popular site for picnics but was inaccessible after it was mined by Argentine troops in 1982. In 2013 the area was cleared of mines and the area is once again open to the public to enjoy.
The historic heart of Stanley
Corrals & Gauchos
Falkland’s folklore paints a colourful picture of the era of the gauchos in the Falklands.
These men were cattle hands brought to the Islands in small numbers to work with the large herds of wild cattle which roamed the East, and later West, Falklands. They were, by repute, excellent horsemen and regarded as professionals. They reputedly worked, lived and played hard.
Many were from South America - Uruguay and Argentina in particular, but other were Spanish, Gibraltarian and some even British.
The gauchos also left us a legacy of stone and turf corrals and walls to make their cattle handling easier. Their Spanish words for animal colours and some place names, live on, as do their horse gear and saddlery terms and names. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of the shepherds brought from the northern isles of Scotland were totally unfamiliar with horses - accustomed to small-scale farming carried out on foot, they had no vocabulary for cowboy work. They adopted the Spanish terms and these continue to be used, although many have become corrupted over the years, evolving into expressions unique to the Falklands.
Gauchos married in the Falklands and some surnames live on today, such as Pitaluga and Llamosa, to name two.
As time goes by we are striving to document the corrals, walls and general lifestyle of the gaucho in the Falklands.
Falkland Islands Museum & National Trust