Whips can be made of a huge variety of materials; the most common is leather from animals like cows, horses, goats or even hippos. Besides natural materials, whips are also made of Nylon, Dyneema, Spectra and other artificial fibers, which are becoming increasingly popular.
A whip basically consists of a braided, tapered thong, which ends in a fine point, the so-called cracker. This cracker breaks the sound barrier when the whip is swung, producing the typical sound of the whip. These are the 6 main types of whips and some basic information about them.
1. The Bull whip
This one is a classic in American history and film, including the Indiana Jones movies, “Zorro”, “Batman” and many more. Bull whips are single, long whips with a wooden handle and rawhide core. A narrow, braided thong to which the fall is connected, a tapered strip of leather follows its short and stiff handle with the Cracker on top.
Originally used for herding, today the bullwhip is mainly a sports cracking whip, especially in the USA and Europe.
They are built for longevity, reliability and portability; they can be easily carried in saddlebags. The defining feature of a bullwhip is essentially that the handle and the thong are made from the same plait. They are in fact one unit.
2. The Snake Whip
Similar to Bull whips, the snake whips’ handle is made of rawhide instead of wood. The entire length, from butt knot to popper, is flexible. This remarkable feature gives the snake whip its portability and ability to be used in smaller spaces (considering it’s a short snake, not a long one), but also removes the leverage that the rigid handle of a bullwhip provides. Handling, targeting with and doing multiple cracks with a longer snake is therefore much more difficult.
Due to their portability, snake whips are handy and after they’ve been broken in gently, they can often be wound up to fit in a bag or large pocket. They are used for different purposes; some are used for self-defense because they are so portable and some just for fun.
3. The Signal Whip
The signal whip’s original purpose was probably sled dog racing, where the rules for the total length of the whips allowed were very rigorous.
The shortest, most concise useable whips of the whip world are signal whips. Just like the snake whip, the signal whip also does not have a rigid handle. It has a flexible handle plaited lash that is permanently attached to the handle and a plaited cracker.
What sets it apart from other whips is its braided in-Popper/Cracker; no other common whip type has this feature. The signal whip completely negates the need for a fall or fall hitch, and instead, the whip maker braids the popper gradually directly to the end of the thong.
4. The Stock Whip
This particular whip is native to and still most common in Australia. The stock whip has a long rigid handle, plaited lash that is not permanently attached to the handle, fall and cracker. This enables you to remove the handle or lash and put a new one when the old one gets worn out. It is generally much longer and thinner than bullwhip handles, and provides more leverage when cracking. Historically it also helped to keep the dangerous end of the whip away from the horse while the stockman was mounted.
5. The Cow Whip
This whip is native to Florida, and most often has a fully wood handle that is not plaited. The use of nylon in these whips has become very common in recent years because of the moist environmental conditions in Florida. Deer leather was mostly used before nylon became widely popular in Florida cow whips.
The attachment between the thong and the handle is exclusive to cow whips. The handle is at least partly empty at the tip, which is where the beginning of the thong fits an inch or so down. The beginning of the thong has two pieces of leather or nylon which poke out of a hole in the handle and are wrapped around the handle and knotted, this is what secures the thong into the handle for the whipcracker, and also makes this whip the second whip type on this list with a thong that can be replaced without replacing the handle.
Another unique feature to the cow whip is the twisted end. Cow whips historically, as well as to date have this tapering twisted ending before a fall or popper.
6. The Bullock Whip
This is essentially the king of all whips. The bullock whip was created simply to produce the loudest crack possible. It will use just about every muscle in your arms to crack; therefore it is definitely not for the weak or lazy.
Just like a stock whip, the bullock whip has the same replaceable thong feature. It has an enormously long handle. The handle on this particular bullock whip is about five feet long. Bullock whips require two hands and both arms to crack.
These were the 6 different most common types of whips available today and their most notable features.