Ione Region, the home of the Great Basin buckaroo, encompasses southeast
Oregon, southwest Idaho, and north and northeastern Nevada. One custom
among some of these buckaroos is tying a horse's tail into a knot while
the horse is being ridden. This knot is sometimes called a "War Knot."
The "War Knot" is an "old-time" custom that has been handed down through
generations of buckaroos.
The purpose of the knot is to keep the horse's
tail out of the way, especially when the buckaroo is roping. If the
horse is switching its tail, the rope can slip under the horse's tail
more easily and cause a wreck. The knot also keeps the tail out of the
mud in inclement weather.
etiquette and custom also dictate that when the buckaroo is done with
the horse for the day, the knot must be untied before the horse is returned
to the cavvy. As buckaroo Royce Hanson of the Red House Camp northwest
of Elko, Nevada said, "Take the tail knot out of the horse's tail when
you turn him loose, or maybe you will find the horse tied up by his
tail to a steel post in the morning."
Royce describes how to make the knot: "Make an
overhand knot at the end of the tail bone, a two strand Turk's head
over it. Pull it down tight and ride off."
For those of us for whom that last statement sounds
like pure Greek, I have added a series of photos to help explain the
please click on: Tail
knot tying photo series
A version of this article appears in
August, 2000 Western Horseman Magazine.