Argentina— Patagonia was first tamed a century ago by hardy pioneer families who established vast sheep ranches to supply voracious markets in Europe and the United States with mutton and wool.
Santa Cruz, a huge but sparsely populated province at the extreme southern tip of South America, twice the size of New York State, but with less than 200,000 inhabitants, sheep continue to outnumber people by a ratio of more than 10 to 1.
The peak of production here just before World War II, Santa Cruz had more than 1,500 ranches and 7.5 million sheep. Over the years those numbers declined gradually, but in the 1990's they fell sharply, from more than four million head of sheep on 1,200 ranches to less than two million on fewer than 600 ranches.
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