Many years before the advent of nylon, California’s vaqueros used other forms of rope to handle livestock. Some of these ropes were made from horsehair or grass. Others were braided from rawhide. These were called riatas. A common riata used for ranch work was braided from 4 or 6 strands (or plaits) of rawhide taken from a single hide. They averaged from 60 to 100 feet in length and held up better in rough conditions than other ropes of the times.

Riatas can be made with more strands, but these are more commonly used for showpieces as they are too bulky to use for roping. The style of roping inspired by the riata is an art form kept alive by a handful of cowboys trying to preserve California’s vaquero traditions.


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  • June 21, 2024 11:17 am local time