L Is for Lariat


L is for Lariat – The lariat is the cowboy’s tool for extending his reach beyond his arm. The term comes from the Spanish word la reata which means the rope. And that brings up a caution. If you happen to be around a cowboy with a lariat hanging from his saddle horn, don’t call it a lariat – it’s a rope. He’ll know you’re a greenhorn for sure if you call it a lariat or, god forbid, a lasso (from the Spanish lazo for snare). Lariat is a noun and lasso is more properly a verb, as in you lasso a calf, but again if you are around a cowboy, best to say he roped a calf, lest he snicker at you for your tenderfoot jargon.

The rope is generally from 12 to 15 yards long with a metal eye or loop (honda) on one end through which to pass the rope to form a noose (loop). The tail of the rope is called the spoke. It was traditionally made from stiffened hemp or horse hair or latigo (another good L word). The stiffness is important to forming a proper snare. Cowboys snare calves that need vaccinations, ear tagslariatDiagram2 (or brands) or for any of a dozen other tasks required to properly care for their stock. Wranglers who work with wild mustangs make use of the lariat as well.

This roping skill is demonstrated at rodeos in the Tie Down Roping competition, one time known as Calf Roping. The name may have been changed to make it more palatable in a world filled with politically correct speech and delicate animal cruelty sensibilities. PETA says calf roping is evil and the cowboys say lazoropeit doesn’t harm calves (though some animals have been put down as a result of accidents). I won’t offer an opinion myself as you are quite capable of forming your own. But you have to admit that roping is a highly skilled activity. The number of calves involved in rodeo is negligible compared to those cared for by working cowboys who take great care to never harm the animals in their charge.

Oh, and for those of us who don’t ride the range or travel the professional cowboy circuit, we can still head to a rodeo and rope us a filly. Just head to Rodeo Drive. What woman you know who could escape the snare of the lariat pictured below.

Tell me what you think – is calf roping animal cruelty? Leave a comment–



   Lariat Necklace

Thanks for the comments over the weekend. Go check out these fellow bloggers:

  • Sandy – travelingsuitcase.blogspot.com
  • Kelworthfiles – Kelworthfiles.wordpress.com
  • Lexa Cain’s Blog – lexacain.blogspot.com


6 thoughts on “L Is for Lariat

  1. Pretty quick wit on the Rodeo Drive quip, there. 🙂

    As for calf roping, I’ve grown up around livestock all my life and spent many a summer at the rodeo. I think it can be cruel if done improperly, but if done at a rodeo by professional cowboys, I’ve rarely seen any harm in it. It is a useful skill that many of them use in their private lives outside of the arena and they’ve trained (most of them for years) to do it properly. When done on the ranch, it’s a necessity. Plain and simple. Personally, I just think those PETA folks just get a little overly sensitive. Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie

  2. Lots of nice source terms here I did not know, like spoke. But I did grow up in the south, so I did know it’s best to just call it a rope, hehe.

    I’m inclined to say that yes, calf-roping is a form of animal cruelty, and add that it since this is my personal opinion, and it’s neither the worst form nor a form that’s going away anytime soon, I wouldn’t really be interested in arguing over it. (Sue me – other battles to fight) 😉

    best of luck with the challenge, and this is a very nice post.

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