Bowline: The King of Knots

Posted by Professional Tree Climber on 11/20/2017

A Long History

When you think about the most used knot in the tree industry, what comes to mind first? Maybe the Blake’s Hitch? What about the Clove Hitch, that’s pretty useful right? How about the Figure Eight? Wait, you thought about all of those before the Bowline??? The Bowline is easily one of the most used and most useful knots in the tree industry!


The Bowline is actually considered “The King of Knots” and for good reason! The Bowline is considered an ancient knot that has been around for hundreds to thousands of years. There were possible findings of the Bowline being used on the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu’s ship upon excavation. The Bowline has surely seen its fair share of use over the years whether it be Egyptian Pharaohs, burly sailors out in search of a new world, or a skinny tree guy rigging out limbs from the top of a Maple tree. We are all connected by a singular knot that we have all been using because of its ease of tying, its recognizability, and its reliability!




What’s Knot to Like?

Reliability is one of the greatest things about the Bowline. Most of the time we are using a variation of the Bowline called a Running Bowline. The Running Bowline forms a constriction around whatever it is tied to. When the rope is pulled harder, the knot constricts tighter. This works great when roping out limbs and logs in our line of work. The Bowline is great for situations when your life isn’t on the line, no pun intended. Though the Running Bowline and the Bowline proper are both very reliable when weighted, the Bowline is actually known for loosening and opening when being weighted and unweighted.


Rock climbers found out in a bad way about the problems of a Bowline when it is weighted and unweighted. So, they started tying a Yosemite Bowline, named after the greatest place in the world to rock climb, Yosemite National Park! The Yosemite Bowline takes the tail of the rope and follows the standing end of the rope back upwards and out of the knot. This creates a lock that won’t allow the Bowline to open up when it is weighted and unweighted. If you are using a Bowline for a life support knot, PLEASE start tying the Yosemite Bowline. There have been climbers all over the world who have fallen and died because of the risks a Standard Bowline pose.



Get to Know the Variations

Actually, speaking of a Standard Bowline, how do you know if you are tying the Bowline correctly? Well, a Standard Bowline should have the tail of the knot INSIDE the loop that is formed. This creates a proper Standard Bowline. If you are tying your Bowline with the tail ending on the outside of your final loop, you are actually tying a Cowboy Bowline. The problem with a Cowboy Bowline is the fact that the tail cannot be passed back around to form a Yosemite Bowline. When we look at a Standard Bowline, the tail can easily pass back around to make the Yosemite finish.



Bowlines are a knot that we have or at least should have been using since we first started working with trees. Every tree person should know how to tie the Bowline with ease, and to be honest, with their eyes closed! If you are a new climber, take the time to learn this super valuable knot and start practicing when you are sitting at home watching TV or hanging out after work. Practice makes perfect but it also keeps you alive! Stay safe!

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