Anatomy of a Bullwhip

Anatomy of a Bullwhip

Recently I got an email from someone who wanted to know the names of the different parts of a bullwhip. There is some variation in the terms that people use. The variation is usually a geographic thing, but it can also be a generation thing.

We’ll start at the end you hold and work our way to the end that makes the noise.

The knob on the end is called a heel knot.

Bullwhip Heel Knot

Moving up the whip, you then have the handle. Despite it being called the handle, most whip crackers hold the whip in their hand by the heel knot. Holding the whip by the heel knot allows you to use the full length of the handle as leverage to put more energy into the whip with less effort on your part.

Here’s the handle:

Bullwhip handle

Visually at the end of the handle is the transition knot. This know is mostly decorative. There are specific instances where this knot has a function, but is most whips it’s purely for aesthetics. A whip doesn’t need this knot to function, in fact I’ve made many by whips by request that don’t have that knot.

This knot typically sets at about the spot where the rigid handle ends. It’s main purpose it to hide the transition from the plaiting pattern of the handle to that of the lash.

Bullwhip Transtion knot

Past the transition knot is the Lash or Thong of the whip. The lash is the flexible part of the whip that’s braided.

Bullwhip lash or thong

Extending past the lash is the fall. The fall is attached to the lash by a knot called a “fall hitch”. The way a bullwhip is designed the fall which takes a lot of stress is easily replaced.

Bullwhip fall

Finally we to the end of the whip that makes the noise and that’s the crackers. Like the fall the cracker is designed to be replaced, and replaced very easily. The cracker takes the most abuse out of all the parts of the whip, it’s also cheap to replace.

Bullwhip cracker

There you have it, all the parts of the whip.


8 Foot Bullwhip

8 Foot Bullwhip

Yesterday I got started working on an 8 foot bullwhip. I started by trimming the kangaroo skin.

Then I cut off some thin strips of leather to make a 5 plait wrist loop

Then I got started on the main body of the whip.

The inner plaited belly is made from a different skin from the outer belly and overlay. Normally this would be made from the same skin as the rest of the whip’s braided layers. The reason for that is to economically using the kangaroo skin and reducing waste.

Today I’ll get started on the inner bolster and outer belly.

Kangaroo Skin…

Kangaroo Skin…

I’m starting work on an 8 foot, 12 plait bullwhip. It’s going to be made with whiskey colored veg tanned, drum stuffed kangaroo. I ran up to David Morgan this morning and picked up this skin.

One great thing about buying my kangaroo skins from them is they always have great skins. Right now with the current COVID restrictions is that while I couldn’t go in to pick out my own skin, the crew there knows what a whip maker wants in a skin.

The largest they had was a 58 dm skin and for an 8 foot whip, ideally I’d have at least a 65dm skin. That means that I’ll have to cut up a leftover kangaroo center for one of the bellies. I really hate wasting prime kangaroo skin on a belly, but sometimes that’s what has to happen.

Bullwhips For Sale!

Bullwhips For Sale!

Right now I have more whips in stock that I think I ever have!


It’s because I had a lot of pretty big kangaroo skin “centers” and wanted to use them up. That’s also why most of these whips are in the 4-5 foot range is that I could easily make them from the centers.

Right now I have one center left in natural tan. I’m thinking I’m going to make signal whip out of it.