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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Rawhide Reata — A Work of Art

 By John Brand, Buckaroo Leather, Diamond Springs, CA

 

June 2013 issue  

 

Rawhide Reata - A Work of Art by John Brand

 

      The vaqueros of the Old West were skilled horsemen who valued their horses and their rawhide horse tack. The vaqueros had an arsenal of “tools” to assist them with their every day task on the range. One of these “tools” was the rawhide reata (also spelled “riata”).

      The word reata is from the Spanish word la reata, referring to a loop of rope designed to throw around a target and tighten when pulled. The rawhide reata was a long, braided rawhide rope used by the early Mexican vaqueros and was no doubt first introduced into Mexico by the Spanish conquistadors.

      Though the word reata is often used to refer to any rope, the genuine vaquero reata was and is a special item.

      The reata was usually 40 to 80 feet long and was made from twisted strands of rawhide. The finest riatas used rawhide strands, cut by experts, from the primest part of several young heifer hides. The hides were well chosen and properly cured.

      The reateros (Spanish for “rope makers”) were masters at the craft of braiding reatas and all other vaquero rawhide tools. Many of these tools were truly works of art. The braiding of the riatas was not only an art form but the braids had uniformity and even tension. This was to insure a durable working tool for the vaquero.

      The rawhide riata was the most useful tool of the Californio vaquero and he was highly proficient in handling it. The dexterity displayed by the vaquero ropers impressed the early Americans cowhands and the riata was quickly adopted by them, as were other items of vacquero equipment. The reata can be thrown farther, with the use of less energy and retaining a more perfect loop, than any other type of rope on the market.

      The Mexican way to treat the riata to keep it supple was to tie it between two trees, rub it first with lemon juice (cut a fresh lemon in two and rub the fruit along the length), and then rub it with beef fat (suet). This kept the leather from drying out or becoming stiff. Today, if you use an artificial product it will make the reata too limber.

      The reatas of the Old West and today are braided in four, six or eight strands. The eight-strand, if made by a top reatero, is a beautiful article and superb for light roping. For average hard work on large stock, the four-strand is the best.

      Diameters vary according to individual preference, but the 3/8-inch riata is the one most used today. A rawhide reata can also have different degrees of stiffness (in roping circles called “lays”) depending on what type of rawhide is used. For instance, bull hide makes a very stiff rope perfect for heel roping.

      Rawhide reatas are both a useful tool of the vaquero, and also a true work of art and craftsmanship.

 

      Buckaroo Leather has been serving the Western horseman for over 30 years, by manufacturing the highest-quality, American-made horse tack, and providing unmatched customer service.Visit their website at www.buckarooleather.com, or give Buckaroo John a call at 800-873-0781.

    

 

Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

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