AskDefine | Define lariat

Dictionary Definition

lariat n : a long noosed rope used to catch animals [syn: lasso, riata, reata]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Spanish la reata ‘the lasso’.


  • /'lærɪət/


  1. a lasso

Extensive Definition

Lariat redirects here. For the wrestling move, see lariat. For the genetic structure, see Splicing (genetics). Reata redirects here. For the comic book character, see Reata (comics)
A lasso is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. It is a well-known tool of the American cowboy. The word is also a verb; to lasso is to successfully throw the loop of rope around something. When referring to the entire length of rope used, before or after a loop is formed, the rope itself is more properly called a lariat. Many cowboys simply call it a "Rope."
A lariat is made from stiff rope so that the noose stays open when the lasso is thrown. It also allows the cowboy to easily open up the noose from horseback to releasing the cattle because the rope is stiff enough to be pushed a little. A high quality lasso is weighted for better handling. The lariat has a small reinforced loop at one end, called a hondo, through which the rope passes to form a loop. The other end is usually tied simply in a small, tight, overhand knot to prevent fraying. Most modern lariats are made of stiff nylon rope, usually about 5/16" or 3/8" in diameter.
The lariat is used today in rodeos as part of the competitive events such as calf roping and team roping. It is also still used on working ranches to capture cattle or other livestock when necessary. After catching the cattle, the lasso can be tied or wrapped (dallied) around the horn, a typical feature on the front of a western saddle. With the lariat around the horn, the cowboy can use his horse as the equivalent of a towtruck with a winch.
Part of the historical culture of both the vaqueros of Mexico and the cowboys of the Western United States, is a related skill now called "trick roping" , a performance of assorted lasso spinning tricks. Will Rogers was a well-known practitioner of trick roping and the natural horsemanship practitioner Buck Brannaman also got his start as a trick roper when he was a child.


Lassos are not only part of North American culture; relief carvings at the ancient Egyptian temple of Pharoah Seti I at Abydos, built c.1280 BC, show the pharoah holding a lasso, then holding onto a bull roped around the horns. They were also used by Tatars and are still used by the Sami people. The Mongols use a variant of the lasso called an uurga consisting of a rope loop at the end of a very long pole.

See also

lariat in Bulgarian: Ласо
lariat in German: Lasso
lariat in Esperanto: Lazo
lariat in French: Lasso
lariat in Galician: Lazo
lariat in Icelandic: Slönguvaður
lariat in Italian: Lazo
lariat in Dutch: Lasso
lariat in Polish: Lasso
lariat in Russian: Лассо
lariat in Finnish: Lasso
lariat in Swedish: Lasso

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bait, birdlime, bola, cobweb, dragnet, fishhook, fly, gill net, ground bait, hook, jig, lasso, lime, lure, meshes, net, noose, plug, pound net, purse seine, seine, snare, sniggle, spinner, springe, squid, toils, trawl, wobbler
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