The Pehuenche adopted horse meat into their diet after feral horses of Spanish origin reached the eastern foothills of the Andes. These herds had developed in the humid pampa, after the Spanish abandoned Buenos Aires the second time in 1541. At first the Pehuenche hunted horses as any other game, but later they began to raise horses for meat and transport. To conserve horse meat, they processed it as charqui after being sun-dried in the high Andes.
Juan Ignacio Molina wrote in his Civic History of the Kingdom of Chile (1787) that the language and religion of the Pehuenche were similar to those of other Mapuche, but he described their dress as distinct. The men wore skirts rather than trousers, as well as earrings and manillas. Molina described them as nomadic ("vagabond" in his words) and the most industrious and laborious among "all the savages".