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Leather Whip – Choosing Thickness, Weight, Uses, and Options

What are leather whips, and what are they used for? Leather whips are not just for show and tell; there is a history and several different uses. There’s also great craftsmanship that goes into leather whips of all types. I will discuss the uses, manufacturing, and options of leather whips.

Leather whips are tools with cords of leather strips attached to a handle used for working with livestock and costume accessories. They’re great for herding cattle, urging resistant horses, and cracking for sport. Leather whips can be short or long and cost $6–$600.

How are leather whips made, and how does one choose the right one? Let’s dive into the types and benefits of leather whips.

What Is a Leather Whip?

A leather whip is a handheld device for farming, livestock, and costumes. It is made up of a wooden or metal handle and several cords of leather strips. Leather whips are used to corral cattle and horses, get an ornery horse’s attention, and perform stunts on movie sets. 

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • The History of Leather Whips
  • Why You Might Like a Leather Whip
  • Leather Whip Overview Table
  • Popular Types and Styles of Leather Whips
  • Common Leather Whip Characteristics
  • Leather Whip Costs
  • Pros of a Leather Whip
  • Cons of a Leather Whip
  • Leather Whip Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
  • Experienced Tips for Choosing a Leather Whip
  • My Personal Research with a Leather Whip
  • Leather Whip Care and Maintenance
  • Helpful Insights on Leather Whips
  • Key Takeaways
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A Braided Leather Whip

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

One myth around leather whips is that they are all created equal. Leather whips are made of different types of leather in multiple styles and for many purposes. A misconception about leather whips is they’re waterproof, which is mostly untrue. Leather whips are mostly water resistant, meaning they can still absorb water which causes damage to the leather material. 

The History of Leather Whips

Leather was first used around 400,000 years ago, but leather whips weren’t found until the 2nd or 3rd century AD in Rome. Leather cow whips were used for the slave trade and weapons for several centuries in the same design. According to researchers Deniz Gurler Karaman and Selime Mentes Colak, leather whips, known as bandages, were used by shamans in ancient times to repel evil spirits.

Demand for leather whips diminished by the late 1800s as the economy became mechanized, but after the 1950s, there was a surge in preserving crafts, and thanks to Indiana Jones, the leather whip became a hobby and competitive sport. 

Why You Might Like a Leather Whip

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One might like a leather whip for several reasons. A leather whip is a necessary tool in many cases for herding cows and working with horses. Over time the “crack” of the whip (the loop, according to Sarah Graham of Scientific American) and the fall can break down and be less effective at creating the “sonic boom.”

Therefore, it’s important to replace a leather whip when this occurs. Leather whips are also fun to whip and try to master the crack, plus Indiana Jones made it look cool!

Leather Whip Overview Table

Leather Whip CharacteristicDetails
ItemLeather Whip
UsesCattle, horses, dogs, costume
Common MaterialsLeather, wood, metal, nylon
Popular ColorsBlack, brown, red, white, multicolored
Sizes3–20 feet long
Popular StylesCow whip, Bullwhip
Cost Range ($)$6–$585
How Long it Lasts (on average)10–100 years
Leather Whip Characteristics

Popular Types and Styles of Leather Whips

The most popular styles of leather whips are the cow whip and bullwhip. The cow whip is most often used with cattle and has a 12–17 inch wooden handle where the leather thong is tied in. Cow whips are looped around saddle horns by cattle rustlers.

The bullwhip is what was popularized by Indiana Jones, Catwoman, and Zorro and is constructed of a 10-inch handle with a leather overlay that extends from the handle to the tip. Bullwhips are often used for sports in the U.S. and Europe. Bullwhips are heavier than cow whips and are a great choice for those who have experience with cracking whips.

Common Leather Whip Characteristics

Materials

Leather whips are made of different types of leather and usually a wooden or metal handle. Leather types are commonly genuine cowhide or calfskin. Some leather whips also have nylon at the popper, fall, and wrist loop.

Sizes

Leather whips vary in size from 3–20 feet long, the most common being 4 and 8 feet.

Variations

There are several variations of leather whips, including:

  1. Bull
  2. Crop
  3. Snake
  4. Signal
  5. Stock
  6. Cow
  7. Bullock
  8. Cat o’ nine tails
  9. Sjambok, 
  10. Qilinbian
  11. Equestrian
  12. Fire
  13. Snake
  14. Performance hybrid.

Key Uses

When working with cattle and horses, leather whips are commonly used to encourage the animals. They’re also used in costumes.

Leather Whip Costs

The cost of a leather whip depends on a few factors, including the type of leather, the kind of whip, and whether it is handmade or machine-made. Mass-produced leather whips are generally cheaper, while handmade leather whips are more expensive. Here are some examples of leather whip costs:

  1. A 9-foot handmade leather bullwhip costs about $25.
  2. A PU leather equestrian crop whip is about $10.
  3. A 10-foot leather bullwhip can cost as much as about $600.

Pros of a Leather Whip

A leather whip is great for herding cattle, working with resistant horses, and cracking for sport. They’re lightweight, some even ergonomic, and fun to crack. Leather whips last for a very long time when used and maintained appropriately.

Cons of a Leather Whip

Leather whips are made of leather, which over time and with frequent use, can start to break down and be less efficient. This can be prevented with regular care and conditioning. Leather whips can also be expensive when looking at the best ones, which are usually handmade but highly durable.

Leather Whip Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made

The leather whip manufacturing process begins with creating the core and handle. Leather strands are then cut from tanned cowhide, stretched, and resized for the handle and whip. The leather strands are tightly braided and trimmed to taper at the end.

The handle strands go through the same process, then wrap around the handle. The whip itself is attached to the handle and wrapped into place by the handle strand. A leather overlay is then made and tightly braided and wrapped around the handle and the whip to stabilize the parts and create a single piece.

Check out this helpful video from MidWestWhips demonstrating how a leather bullwhip is made.

Experienced Tips for Choosing a Leather Whip

Frequency of Use

First, consider how often the leather whip will be used. A leather whip for a costume does not need to be the highest quality leather as it will not be used often. A leather whip for working with cattle or horses should be genuine leather and handmade for the highest quality and greatest durability.

Environment/Conditions of Use

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The environment where the leather whip will be used is another important facet to consider. Farm work has great potential for exposure to the elements, in which case genuine leather should be chosen. Lower-quality leather can be used indoors.

Cost

When choosing a leather whip for frequent use, be prepared to spend a bit more for higher quality and durability. It may cost more initially, but these more expensive leather whips tend to last much longer than cheaper ones.

Trends

Regarding leather whips on farms and working with livestock, there aren’t any trends. But leather whips are trendy for costumes, thanks to movies and videos. The most significant trend has been the leather whip used by Indiana Jones, a bullwhip that can split one’s lip if not careful!

Personal Preference

Whether one is creating a costume or skilled with cattle, personal preference plays a big role in choosing a leather whip. It’s good to feel the leather whip in hand, test its weight, and experience the crack firsthand to find the best one for personal preference and ergonomics.

My Personal Research on Leather Whips

Leather Whip SupplierType of WhipPrice
Weaver Leather Supply, LLC (1973)Stock Whip$17
Ardour Crafts (1990)Bullwhip$69.99
David Morgan, LLC (1960s)Stock Whip$160
Horse.com (1976)Bullwhip$30.85-$34.75
Chick’s Discount Saddlery (1975)Crop$20
Prices of Leather Whips

Leather Whip Care and Maintenance

How to Clean a Leather Whip

A leather whip can be cleaned with a soft-bristled brush or a proper leather cleaner and a microfiber towel. Follow the manufacturer’s directions and test all products in an inconspicuous spot to ensure colorfastness. Allow the leather to air dry, then apply the leather conditioner.

How to Maintain a Leather Whip

Leather whips should be kept away from extended direct sunlight, moisture, and temperature extremes. Clean up any spills and condition the leather regularly to keep the whip in good shape.

How to Store a Leather Whip

Store a leather whip indoors, away from direct sunlight, and someplace cool and dry. Cover the leather whip to protect it from dust and condition the leather regularly to keep it supple.

Helpful Insights on Leather Whips

What are leather whips called?

Leather whips are also called cow whips, bullwhips, stock whips, snake whips, signal whips, and equestrian whips.

How do you make a leather whip?

A leather whip is made by cutting leather lengthwise halfway into three to four strips, applying glue to the inside of the uncut leather, then wrapping the glue-side leather onto a wooden or metal handle. Once the glue has dried, braid the leather and tie in a knot at the end.

Can a leather whip get wet?

Leather whips have some water resistance, but because leather is a porous material that can absorb water, it’s best to keep them dry to prevent the fibers from drying and breaking.

What is a leather whip in Terraria?

In the game Terraria, a leather whip is a weapon that can be purchased for 10 gold coins from the Zoologist. Similar to other whips in Terraria, a leather whip increases the damage to a target.

What is a leather bullwhip?

A leather bullwhip is a whip with a single tail made of woven or braided leather that is used for working with cattle and horses.

Key Takeaways

  1. A leather bullwhip is a whip with a single tail made for working with cattle and horses.
  2. High-quality leather whips can last up to 100 years with the proper care.
  3. The best leather whips are handmade.

In Closing

Leather whips are key tools for farmers, ranchers, and some stunt workers. There’s more than meets the eye with leather whips-and it’s important to pick the right one for the job. Hopefully, we’ve answered some questions about leather whips and provided the tools for choosing wisely. 

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