War Knot Series, Part Four: Figure Eight And Rooster Tail Knots

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Ranch Life

In the final installment of this four-part series, learn how to tie the figure eight and rooster tail knot.

As mentioned in the previous installments, buckaroo traditions were handed down from the California vaqueros, who learned their skills and customs from the Spanish conquistadors. In keeping with tradition, many modern-day buckaroos tie certain knots in their horse’s tail each day before riding off to work. Called “war knots” due to their origins with the fighting conquistadors, these knots help keep a horse’s tail clean from the dirt and brush, help keep a tail from getting tangled up in a rope, and they just look cool. If you’re going to wear out your body and a good saddle in the pursuit of making less than minimum wage on a daily basis, you might as well have some style while doing it.

The figure eight and rooster tail knots work well on short-tailed as well as long-tailed horses. The rooster tail knot is a simple variation of the basic figure eight knot. Here, working cowboy Jim Young demonstrates how to tie these two knots.

Step-by-step instructions for tying the figure eight knot:

1) Brush all tangles and debris from your horse’s tail
2) Bring the bottom of the tail up and around your hand, creating a loop
3) Bring the entire tail back down through the loop
4) Pull the knot tight

Step-by-step instructions for tying the rooster tail knot:

1) Comb your horse’s tail so it’s clean from tangles and debris
2) Bring the bottom of the tail up and around your hand, creating a loop like for the figure eight knot
3) Bring the tail back down through the loop, but leave the end of it sticking up through the loop, creating a “rooster tail”

It’s important to take pride in your horse and comb out his tail before work each morning. Combing out a horse’s tail for the first time in the spring after he spent a winter turned out can be quite a chore, as it has likely matted into one or several “witch’s knots.” This term also came from the Spaniards, who believed that a horse’s soul was pure and that the only way the devil could get to him was by tying knots in his mane and tail.

You’ll need to be careful and use a little know-how when combing out large witch’s knots, though. If you get too gung-ho and just start at the bottom and work your way up with an aggressive brushing technique, you’ll end up with three strands of hair on a tail head. It’s not a good look, and the other cowboys will make fun of you.

To learn how to tie the other three knots in this series, search “Jolyn Young” and check out the previous three blogs.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Ranch Life


About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives on the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona with husband and their two small kids. To learn more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....

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