Lasso (Span. lazo), a cord in common use in Spanish America for catching wild cattle.
It is a very strong but thin, well plaited rope of raw hide, one end of which is attached to the broad surcingle which fastens together the complicated gear of the recado or saddle used in the pampas, and the other terminates in a small ring of iron or brass, by which a noose can be formed. The gaucho, when about to use the lasso, keeps a small coil in his bridle hand, and in the other holds the running noose, which is made very large, generally about 8 ft. in diameter. This he whirls round his head, and by the dexterous movement of his wrist keeps the noose open; then, throwing it, he causes it to fall on any particular spot he chooses. When not in use, the lasso is tied up in a small coil to the after part of the recado. The bolas is a somewhat similar missile weapon (see Bolas); both have often been used with great effect in war. The chief difficulty in using either lasso or bolas is to ride so well as to be able, at full speed, and while suddenly turning about, to whirl it steadily round the head and take aim. On foot any person could soon learn the art.
When cattle are caught by the lasso, which is so thrown as to fasten on the horns, they will sometimes gallop round and round in a circle; and if the horse be not well broken, being alarmed at the strain, he will not readily turn like a pivot, in consequence of which men have often been killed; for if the lasso once takes a twist round the rider's body, it will instantly, from the power of the two opposed animals, almost cut him in twain. In Mexico the lasso is called la reata; whence the word lariat common in the S. W. portion of the United States.