Cowboy bowline

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Cowboy bowline
Cowboy bowline 01.svg
NamesCowboy bowline, left-hand bowline, Dutch bowline, Dutch marine bowline, winter bowline
Category Loop
Related Bowline, Eskimo bowline, sheet bend
Releasing Non-jamming
ABoK #1034½

The cowboy bowline (also left-hand bowline, Dutch marine bowline or winter bowline) is a variation of the bowline loop knot.

Bowline type of knot

The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed "eye" 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.


The cowboy bowline has the working end go around the standing part on the side closer to the loop and results with the working end outside the loop. In contrast, a regular bowline has the working end finishing inside the loop. (The "rabbit" goes around the "tree" in the opposite direction from normal.) The Ashley Book of Knots states that it is "distinctly inferior" to the standard bowline [1] because of its similarity to the left-hand sheet bend. [2] Various tests of the different versions' strengths show little difference; conjecture about either knot's vulnerability to some failure remain pretty much only that – conjectures.

<i>The Ashley Book of Knots</i> book

The Ashley Book of Knots is an encyclopedia of knots written and illustrated by the American artist Clifford W. Ashley. First published in 1944, it was the culmination of over 11 years of work. The book contains exactly 3854 numbered entries and an estimated 7000 illustrations. The entries include knot instructions, uses, and some histories, categorized by type or function. It remains one of the most important and comprehensive books on knots.

As for the tail of a regular bowline finishing "inside the loop [ eye]", that is more a formal-image state than one of an actual knot, as the draw of the standing part will pull the tail around so that it actually points away from the eye, but there are various ways the knot can be dressed to affect this aspect.

Some hearsay suggest the Dutch Navy uses (or used) this variant of the bowline because they consider it superior since the working end is not so easily pushed back by accident.[ citation needed ] However, there is no documentation to confirm this claim, and some Dutch knot tyers outright deny it.

Another piece of unverified lore is that it is called a winter bowline because the exposed working end on the outside would blow in the wind and prevent it from freezing to the loop on ships in the north Atlantic during winter. (This suggests that the standard bowline would be the summer bowline.)

Comparison of standard bowline (left) and cowboy bowline (right).
(a) - free end of the rope, (b) - load. Standard bowline vs cowboy bowline.svg
Comparison of standard bowline (left) and cowboy bowline (right).
(a) – free end of the rope, (b) – load.


There is a rule of thumb which states that the loose end should be as long as 12 times the circumference of the cord for the sake of safety. [3]

Circumference linear distance around the outside of a closed curve or circular object

In geometry, the circumference of a circle is the (linear) distance around it. That is, the circumference would be the length of the circle if it were opened up and straightened out to a line segment. Since a circle is the edge (boundary) of a disk, circumference is a special case of perimeter. The perimeter is the length around any closed figure and is the term used for most figures excepting the circle and some circular-like figures such as ellipses. Informally, "circumference" may also refer to the edge itself rather than to the length of the edge.

See also

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Knot method of fastening or securing linear material, such as rope, by tying or interweaving

A knot is an intentional complication in cordage which may be useful or decorative. Practical knots may be classified as hitches, bends, splices, or knots. A hitch fastens a rope to another object; a bend unites two rope ends; a splice is a multi-strand bend or loop. A knot in the strictest sense serves as 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.

Overhand knot type of knot

The overhand knot is one of the most fundamental knots, and it forms the basis of many others, including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot, and water knot. The overhand knot is a stopper, especially when used alone, and hence it is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. An overhand knot becomes a trefoil knot, a true knot in the mathematical sense, by joining the ends.

Clove hitch type of knot

The clove hitch is a type of knot. Along with the bowline and the sheet bend, it is often considered one of the most important knots and is commonly referred to as a Double Hitch. A clove hitch is two successive half-hitches around an object. It is most effectively used as a crossing knot. It can be used as a binding knot, but is not particularly secure in that role. A clove hitch made around the rope's own standing part is known as either two half-hitches or buntline hitch, depending on whether the turns of the clove hitch progress away from or towards the hitched object.

Although the name clove hitch is given by Falconer in his Dictionary of 1769, the knot is much older, having been tied in ratlines at least as early as the first quarter of the sixteenth century. This is shown in early sculpture and paintings. A round turn is taken with the ratline and then a hitch is added below. The forward end is always the first to be made fast.

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.

Eskimo bowline

The Eskimo bowline is an 'anti-bowline' which is in a class of knots known as 'eye knots'. The eye is formed in the end of the rope to permit attachments/connections. The common bowline is also an 'eye knot'. In the common bowline, the bight component forms around the 'standing part'. In contrast, the bight component of an anti-bowline forms around the ongoing eye-leg.

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.

Figure-eight loop type de nœud

A figure-eight loop is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving where rope strains are light to moderate and for decorative purposes. The knot is commonly followed by tying a strangle knot or an overhand knot around the standing end.

The Flemish loop or figure-eight loop is perhaps stronger than the loop knot. Neither of these knots is used at sea, as they are hard to untie. In hooking a tackle to any of the loops, if the loop is long enough it is better to arrange the rope as a cat's paw.

Taut-line hitch hitch knot

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 size of the loop, thus changing the effective length of the standing part without retying the knot.

Double bowline

A double bowline is a type of loop knot. Instead of the single turn of the regular bowline, the double bowline uses a round turn. This forms a more secure loop than a standard bowline.

Slip knot type of knot

The slip knot is a stopper knot which is easily undone by pulling the tail. The slip knot is related to the running knot, which will release when the standing end is pulled. Both knots are identical and are composed of a slipped overhand knot, where a bight allows the knot be released by pulling on an end; the working end for a slip knot, and the standing end for a running knot. The slip knot is used as a starting point for crochet and knitting.

The slip knot is a stopper knot that may be spilled or slipped instantly by pulling on the end to withdraw a loop. There is but one knot entitled to the name; any others having a similar feature are merely "slipped" knots.

Running bowline

The running bowline is a knot consisting of a bowline looped around its own standing end to create a noose.

Ashleys stopper knot

Ashley's stopper knot, also known as the oysterman's stopper, is a knot developed by Clifford W. Ashley around 1910. It makes a well-balanced trefoil-faced stopper at the end of the rope, giving greater resistance to pulling through an opening than other common stoppers. Essentially, the knot is a common overhand noose, but with the end of the rope passing through the noose eye, which closes upon it. It may be multiplied to form a larger knot with more than three bights appearing around the knot. It is the result of implementing a double wall knot in one strand.

Axle hitch

The axle hitch is used to tie a hitch in a hard-to-reach place, or for extra security by having a double hold on an object. When the initial bight is passed around the object, the rest of the knot can be completed out away from the cramped location. The knot is finished with a bowline knot or other reliable knot that connects the working end to the standing part.

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.

Two half-hitches type of knot

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, or double half-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.

Bight (knot) curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope

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.

Portuguese bowline type of knot

The Portuguese bowline is a variant of the bowline with two loops. The two loops are adjustable in size, unlike the Spanish bowline. Rope can be pulled from one loop into the other one even after tightening. Like the Spanish bowline, it can be used as a makeshift Bosun's chair.

Rigid double splayed loop in the bight

The rigid double splayed loop in the bight is a knot that contains two parallel loops. Clifford Ashley wrote that it is "one of the firmest of the Double Loops since the two loops do not directly communicate with each other".. It is a variation of the alpine butterfly knot.

Double overhand noose

The double overhand noose is a very secure hitch knot. It might be used by cavers and canyoneers to bind a cow tail or a foot loop to a carabiner.


  1. Clifford W. Ashley, The Ashley Book of Knots (New York: Doubleday, 1944), 188.
  2. Clifford W. Ashley, The Ashley Book of Knots (New York: Doubleday, 1944), 16.
  3. "Roper's Knot Pages - Single loops". Retrieved 2018-07-10.