Cow hitch

Last updated
Girth Hitch
Tete d'alouette.jpg
NamesGirth Hitch, Lark's head, Lark's foot, Girth hitch, Ring hitch, Lanyard hitch, Bale Sling hitch, Baggage Tag Loop, Tag Knot, Deadeye hitch, Running eye
Category Hitch
Origin Ancient
Related Clove hitch, Cat's paw, Bale sling hitch, Prusik, Halter hitch
Releasing Non-jamming
Typical useTying a rope to a ring or pole
CaveatCan fail unless equal tension is applied to both of the standing parts of the rope.
ABoK #5, #56, #59, #244, #310, #1184, #1673, #1694, #1698, #1700, #1802, #2163, #2164, #2168, #2175, #3317

The cow hitch, also called the lark's head, is a hitch knot used to attach a rope to an object. The cow hitch comprises a pair of half-hitches tied in opposing directions, as compared to the clove hitch in which the half-hitches are tied in the same direction. It has several variations and is known under a variety of names. It can be tied either with the end of the rope or with a bight.



A simple and useful knotted structure, the cow hitch has been known since at least the first century when described by Greek physician Heraklas in a monograph on surgical knots and slings. [1] Known under a variety of names, this knot has been used both on land and at sea. [2] The common alternate name "lark's head" is attributed to Tom Bowling (pseudonym) in the 1866 work The Book of Knots which is presumed to have been adapted from a French manuscript; lark's head is a literal translation of the French name for the knot, tête d'alouette. [3]


The underlying cow hitch structure can be formed and used in a variety of ways. These variations are differentiated by method used to form the knot and the way in which it is loaded. [4] In particular, the knot can be formed with an end of the rope, in a closed loop or strap, or a combination of these two in which it is tied with the end and then formed into a loop by securing the free end to the standing part. Although certain names tend to be historically associated with a particular variations, real-world naming is not necessarily consistent between various users and applications.

With the end

When tied using the end of a rope, such as when securing an animal's lead to a vertical post or stake, this knot was said to be more resistant to loosening than the clove hitch as the animal wanders around the post. [5] In general, however, this single-ended form of the cow hitch is less stable compared to the variations in which both ends are loaded. [6] [7]

In a closed loop or strap

This form is commonly known as a strap hitch or girth hitch. The latter term being common among climbers. It is the method commonly used to attach luggage tags which have a pre-tied loop of string or elastic. This form is also often used to connect loop-ended lanyards to handheld electronic equipment, since it can be tied without access to the ends of the fastening loop.

With the end, then secured into a loop

When tied by threading the end and then the end is secured to the standing part, the knot is known as a bale sling hitch.



The craft of tatting is composed primarily of lark's head knots over carrier threads. A lark's head is called a double stitch in tatting.

Friendship bracelets

In the context of friendship bracelets, the lark's head is called the reverse knot or the forward backward knot or the backward forward knot if the author is being directionally specific for instructional purposes.

Cableman's hitch

Another application for the cow hitch is in the handling of large electric power cable in surface mines. Known colloquially as a "Cableman's hitch", it is also used to attach loops of cable to the back of a pick-up truck during a shovel move. As the cable can weigh upwards of 22 pounds per foot and 3–4 loops of cable can be attached to one length of rope, a clove hitch's shearing force would damage the cable jacket. The Cableman's hitch puts the strain onto the hitch crossing over the two running ends of the rope.

Products that use cow hitch knots

See also

Related Research Articles

Knot Method of fastening or securing linear material

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be practical or decorative, or both. Practical knots are classified by function, including hitches, bends, loop knots, and splices: a hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend fastens two ends of a rope to each another; a loop knot is any knot creating a loop; and splice denotes any multi-strand knot, including bends and loops. A knot may also refer, in the strictest sense, to a stopper or knob at the end of a rope to keep that end from slipping through a grommet or eye. Knots have excited interest since ancient times for their practical uses, as well as their topological intricacy, studied in the area of mathematics known as knot theory.

Bowline Simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope

The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie; most notably, it is easy to untie after being subjected to a load. The bowline is sometimes referred to as King of the knots because of its importance. Along with the sheet bend and the clove hitch, the bowline is often considered one of the most essential knots.

Millers knot

A miller's knot is a binding knot used to secure the opening of a sack or bag. Historically, large sacks often contained grains; thus the association of these knots with the miller's trade. Several knots are known interchangeably by these three names.

Constrictor knot binding knot

The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.

Sheepshank Type of knot

A shank is a type of knot that is used to shorten a rope or take up slack, such as the sheepshank. The sheepshank knot is not stable. It will fall apart under too much load or too little load.

Truckers hitch

The trucker's hitch is a compound knot commonly used for securing loads on trucks or trailers. This general arrangement, using loops and turns in the rope itself to form a crude block and tackle, has long been used to tension lines and is known by multiple names. Knot author Geoffrey Budworth claims the knot can be traced back to the days when carters and hawkers used horse-drawn conveyances to move their wares from place to place.

Marlinespike hitch

The marlinespike hitch is a temporary knot used to attach a rod to a rope in order to form a handle. This allows more tension than could be produced comfortably by gripping the rope with the hands alone. It is useful when tightening knots and for other purposes in ropework.

A whipping knot or whipping is a binding of marline twine or whipcord around the end of a rope to prevent its natural tendency to fray.

Taut-line hitch

The taut-line hitch is an adjustable loop knot for use on lines under tension. It is useful when the length of a line will need to be periodically adjusted in order to maintain tension. It is made by tying a rolling hitch around the standing part after passing around an anchor object. Tension is maintained by sliding the hitch to adjust the size of the loop, thus changing the effective length of the standing part without retying the knot.

Timber hitch

The timber hitch is a knot used to attach a single length of rope to a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily untied even after heavy loading.

Cats paw (knot)

The Cat's paw is a knot used for connecting a rope to an object. It is very similar to the cow hitch except there is an additional twist on each side of the bight, making it less prone to slipping.

The cat's-paw is the common hook hitch for slings. It is the same basic form as the bale sling hitch but has additional twists. Brady says "two or three altogether," and Steel, who mentioned the name in 1794, says "three twists." It is the best of all sling hitches and is often recommended for a slippery rope. But no hitch can slip when tied in a slings since it has no ends. All that is needed is a hitch that cannot jam, and this requirement the cat's-paw fills admirably. The knot spills instantly when removed from the hook. It is the hitch always used for heavy lifts.

Buntline hitch

The buntline hitch is a knot used for attaching a rope to an object. It is formed by passing the working end around an object, then making a clove hitch around the rope's standing part and taking care that the turns of the clove hitch progress towards the object rather than away from it. Secure and easily tied, the buntline hitch will jam when subjected to extreme loads. Given the knot's propensity to jam, it is often made in slipped form.

The buntline hitch, when bent to a yard, makes a more secure knot than two half hitches, but is more liable to jam. It differs from two half hitches in that the second half hitch is inside instead of outside the first one.

Bale sling hitch

The bale sling hitch is a knot which traditionally uses a continuous loop of strap to form a cow hitch around an object in order to hoist or lower it. In practice, a similar arrangement can also be formed using a fixed loop at the end of a rope. This loop could be formed at the end of a line with a knot, such as the bowline, or a large eye splice.

Rolling hitch

The rolling hitch is a knot used to attach a rope to a rod, pole, or another rope. A simple friction hitch, it is used for lengthwise pull along an object rather than at right angles. The rolling hitch is designed to resist lengthwise movement for only a single direction of pull.

Prusik knot

A Prusik is a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope, applied in climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, rope rescue, ziplining, and by arborists. The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord used to tie the hitch and the hitch itself, and the verb is "to prusik". More casually, the term is used for any friction hitch or device that can grab a rope. Due to the pronunciation, the word is often misspelled Prussik, Prussick, or Prussic.

Two half-hitches

Two half-hitches is a type of knot, specifically a binding knot or hitch knot. One variety consists of an overhand knot tied around a post, followed by a half-hitch. This knot is less often referred to as a clove hitch over itself, double half-hitch, or full-hitch.

Two half hitches is the commonest of all hitches for mooring in particular and also for general utility. Steel gives the name in 1794. The difference between two half hitches and the clove hitch is that the former, after a single turn around a spar, is made fast around its own standing part, while the latter is tied directly around the spar.

Bottle sling

The bottle sling is a knot which can be used to create a handle for a glass or ceramic container with a slippery narrow neck, as long as the neck widens slightly near the top.

Bight (knot)

In knot tying, a bight is a curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope, string, or yarn. A knot that can be tied using only the bight of a rope, without access to the ends, is described as in the bight. The term "bight" is also used in a more specific way when describing Turk's head knots, indicating how many repetitions of braiding are made in the circuit of a given knot.


  1. Hage, J. Joris (April 2008), "Heraklas on Knots: Sixteen Surgical Nooses and Knots from the First Century A.D.", World Journal of Surgery, 32 (4), pp. 648–55, doi:10.1007/s00268-007-9359-x, PMID   18224483
  2. Ashley, Clifford W. (1944), The Ashley Book of Knots, New York: Doubleday, p. 305
  3. Ahsley, p. 11.
  4. Ashley, p. 290.
  5. Ashley, p. 44.
  6. Cyrus Lawrence Day (1986), The Art of Knotting and Splicing (4th ed.), Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, pp. 94–95
  7. Soles, Clyde (2004). The Outdoor Knot Book. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. pp. 96–97. ISBN   978-0-89886-962-0.