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Pato is Spanish for "duck". The early games used a live duck inside a basket instead of a ball. Pato has been written about since 1610. The playing field would often go between neighboring ranches. The first team to reach its own ranch house with the duck was the winner.
Pato was banned several times during its history. This was due to the violence—not only to the duck; many gauchos were trampled underfoot. Some lost their lives in knife fights started in the heat of the game. In 1796, a Catholic priest said that pato players who died this way should not get Christian burial. Laws saying people could not play pato were common in the 19th century.
In modern pato, two four-member teams ride on horses. They try to get a ball which has six handles. They score by throwing the ball through a ring that is vertical. The rings have a 100 cm (3.3 ft) diameter. They are on 240 cm (7.9 ft) high poles. A closed net, going up for 140 cm (4.6 ft), holds the ball after goals are scored.
The winner is the team with most goals scored after the time is done. Game time is six 8-minute "periods".
The field is: length 180 to 220 m (196.9 to 240.6 yd), width 80 to 90 m (87 to 98 yd). The ball is made of leather, with an inflated rubber chamber and six leather handles. Its diameter is 40 cm (15.7 in) handle-to-handle. The weight is 1050 to 1250 g (2.3 to 2.8 lbs).
The player that has control of the pato (i.e. holds the ball by a handle) must ride with his right arm outstretched. He offers the pato so rival players have a chance of tugging the pato and stealing it. Not holding his arm out while riding with the pato is an offense called negada (refusal).
- "Argentina Decree Nº 17468 of 16/09/1953". Global Legal Information Network. http://www.glin.gov/view.action?glinID=111271. Retrieved June 19, 2012. "Decree 17468 of 9/16/1953 decrees that the national sport or game shall be the one known as 'El Pato', as developed from an old game engaged in by the gauchos, and so truly Argentinean in origin."
- Cobiella, Nidia Mabel. "Historia del pato" (in Spanish). Educar.org. http://www.educar.org/Educacionfisicaydeportiva/historia/pato.asp. Retrieved June 19, 2012. "Consistía en arrojar un pato hacia arriba y liberar dos grupos de jinetes que se atropellaban para capturarlo como fuera, y llevarlo. Los jugadores, entonces, se pasaban el pato unos a otros lanzándolo o golpeándolo, para finalmente lograr encestarlo en una red. En ocasiones el pato se colocaba dentro de una cesta y con ella se jugaba."
- "Pato, Argentina's national sport". Argentina.ar. Secretariat of Public Communication, Presidency of the Nation. June 19, 2012. http://www.en.argentina.ar/_en/sports/C480-pato-argentinas-national-sport.php. Retrieved October 31, 2011. "In 1610, thirty years after Buenos Aires' second foundation and two hundred years before the May Revolution, a document drafted by the military anthropologist Felix de Azara described a pato sport scene taking place in the city."
- Moffett, Matt (June 18, 2010). "In Soccer-Mad Argentina, the National Sport Is a Lame Duck". The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703509404575300403661697926.html. Retrieved June 19, 2012. "In 1953, President Juan Peron issued a decree making pato the national sport to preserve 'noble customs of pure, historic root.'"
- Ocaranza Zavalía, Nono. "Reglamento oficial del juego de pato" (in Spanish). Folkloredelnorte.com.ar. http://www.folkloredelnorte.com.ar/zips/regpato.htm. Retrieved June 19, 2012. "El número de jugadores será de 4 por bando en todos los juegos y partidos debiendo numerarse del 1 al 4."