Estancia ( ) or Estância is a Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese term describing a large rural estate with similarities to the English term ranch. The term is used in Argentina, Uruguay, southern Chile and southern Brazil. The equivalent in other Latin American countries would be hacienda, or fazenda (only in Brazil).
Unlike a hacienda, which could be any type of agricultural venture, producing grain, coffee, vegetable, beef, etc., an estancia, most typically located in the southern South American grasslands, the pampas, has historically always been a livestock (cattle or sheep) estate.
During the first centuries of Spanish colonial rule, cattle introduced by the Spanish roamed free and man undertook raids to catch and slaughter them.
In the 19th century stationary ranching ventures started to form in the pampas, with permanent buildings and marked livestock with clearly defined ownership. They were called estancias, the term indicating the stationary, permanent character.
The estancia's ranch worker on horseback, the gaucho, is of similar importance to national folklore and identity to the cowboy in North America.
In recent decades agriculture has intensified and often shifted from livestock to crop farming in the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay, due to the region’s high soil fertility.
A small number of estancias, particularly those with historic architecture have been converted into guest ranches, paradores, in Argentina and Uruguay as well as in Paraguay or Chile.
Several cities and villages, mainly but not exclusively in Latin America, grew out of such estancias and are named accordingly, for example:
- Estância in Sergipe state, Brazil
- Estancia, Iloilo in the province of Iloilo, Philippines.
- Estancia El Brete, Salta Province, Argentina