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Cowboy Piggin' String
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Cowboy Piggin' String

The term “Piggin’ String” has a special meaning to outside cowboys who rope and tie down wild cattle and doctor and brand calves. There are other names for this handy piece of rope. In the Southwest, it is sometimes called a “hogging rope.” In Texas and New Mexico, cowboys call it a “tie-down rope.“  These piggin' strings are similar to the small ropes rodeo tie-down ropers use to tie the feet of the calves they rope in the arena. 

There are a couple of ways cowboys pack their piggin strings. Often a cowboy carries more than one string. The piggin string I use is 7 feet long and 3/8” in diameter, cut from an old catch rope.
  1. I have small rings attached to my saddle on each side (under the third button on a four-button saddle).  The reason for these rings is that I ride a single-rigged saddle. I tie the piggin string onto this ring on the near side (on side) and run the loose ends behind the cantle to the ring on the off side of the saddle.  I place my saddle strings and piggin string ends down through the off-side ring.  This keeps everything out of the way when you are riding through thick brush or roping.

  2. If you ride a double-rigged saddle, you can tie your piggin’ string to the on-side rear D-ring. Again, you need to run the loose ends behind the cantle and through the off-side rear D-ring.
  3. Some outside cowboys prefer to carry their string attached to their chaps or chinks. They have a metal ring installed under the top band of their chaps or chinks on the left side.  The string is first looped through the front fastener or belt on your chinks or chaps and the two loose ends dropped through the metal ring.  It is very important to understand nothing is tied hard and fast to the chinks or chaps. The reason for this is that you won’t get hung up on the string if you get in a storm with your horse. 

There are a number of handy uses for a piggin string besides tying down roped cattle. Here are a few:

  1. You can use it to help open & close difficult wire gates.
    Tie your string in a slip-knot around the gatepost; come around the corner post with the loose end.  Pull until you get some slack in your gate latch wire so that it can slide on (or off) the gatepost.
  2. The string can make a spare bridle rein if you are caught out with nothing to fix your broken bridle rein or other piece of tack.
  3. You can also use it to hobble your horse if you find your hobbles have fallen off your saddle while riding in the brush or you left them hanging on a nail back at the ranch.
    From the left side of the horse, place your string around the off side leg, bring your string to the middle, twist your string three times, then come around the on side front leg. Tie off with a square knot and your horse is hobbled. 
    (Only use this method with small rope if your horse is already hobble-broke.)
  4. Add to these - tie up your dog, tie the gate closed.  
    Bet you can think of some others...

How you carry this handy piece of rope does not matter. The important thing is for it to be there if you need it.

Article by
Mike Laughlin

Photos by Lee Raine


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