lasso (lăsˈō, lăsōˈ) [key], light, strong rope, usually with a smooth, hard finish, made of a fine quality of hemp or nylon. It is used primarily for catching large animals such as cattle and horses. Horsehair or rawhide lassos were formerly common in America, but they have almost completely given way to the hemp and nylon ropes, which are far more efficient roping tools. The rope varies in length from 35 to 50 ft (11–15 m). At one end of the rope is a running knot or a metal ring by means of which a loop or noose is made. The loop is thrown, from as far away as 30 ft (9 m), around the horns or the feet of an animal and drawn tight. The lasso was invented by Native Americans, who used it effectively in war against the Spanish invaders. In the W United States and in parts of Latin America the lasso is a part of the equipment of a cattle herder. To use it on horseback requires great skill of the rider and his horse—the pull of the captured animal may throw the rider's horse, or the horse or rider may become entangled in the rope. The lasso is often called a lariat; the term lariat is applied also to a rope used in picketing, or tethering, animals.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.