Horse Tail Knots used by Northwestern Buckaroos
The 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.
Buckaroo 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 tying sequence.
please click on: Tail knot tying photo series
A version of this article appears in August, 2000 Western Horseman Magazine.