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These cattle-clad seasonally flooded lowlands cover over 50% of the country’s total landmass, comprising rolling grassy knolls, scrubby pasture and prairies dotted with ranches.
Los Llanos – ‘the flat plains’ – is a vast grassland savanna that sprawls to the east of the Andes in northwest Colombia and Venezuela. These cattle-clad seasonally flooded lowlands cover over 50% of the country’s total landmass, comprising rolling grassy knolls, scrubby pasture and prairies dotted with ranches. The region’s main river is the Orinoco with gentle slopes that lead away from higher elevations, which barely rise above 200m. Herdsmen in Los Llanos raise mammoth droves of cattle over many thousands of acres with stud farms, horses and cow fields the lifeblood of Colombia’s ‘cowboy country’. Corralling, roping, ranging and lassoing are all-important skills in this rural hinterland where the nasal dialect of the Llaneros (plainspeople) remains peppered with phrases unchanged from the idioms of the first Spaniard settlers. The Llaneros are proud of their hard lives and are dedicated cowboys from cradle to grave, spending long days enduring extreme heat and high winds in the saddle. Having learned how to ‘break’ horses while young, these gaucho-like ranchers enjoy a provincial culture rich in folklore, legends and stories. It is hard to image a Colombian song more poignant than those of Los Llanos’ heartfelt lilting lyrics to the melodic strum of the cuatro guitar or harp. A true Llanero is a legendary figure on the ranches of Colombia and these accomplished horsemen often wear the distinctive traditional working clothes of a poncho, straw hat and cotizas (rope-soled sandals).