The English Whip Tradition

The English whip tradition consisted of two streams, the hunting whip and the driving whips.


These were probably the most widely used type of whip in history. In the 18th and 19th century during the heydey of the horse drawn buggy and carriage, they displayed a remarkable variety in types and materials. As with the carriage, the style of whip indicated the status and wealth of the owner.  The whips were signed by the whipmaker. Gold, silver and pewter mounts adorned these items and carried such signatures.  The driving whip consisted of two types, the one piece and the 2 piece whip. The two piece version is the one that is thought to have influenced the development of the Australian stockwhip. The function of this whip was to touch up the animal, rather than to create sound.

Image: Hermes Collection, Paris France
Image: Hermes Collection, Paris France

(2) THE HUNTING WHIP This whip depended on sound.  It was actually cracked.  The noise, though not as loud as the Australian stockwhip was enough to startle the fox and to stir the hunt into activity. These whips consisted of a handle of between 20″ to 30″ with a 6″ keeper. They had no fall as they rarely touched the ground, and the silk cracker was attached to the thong itself. Its construction meant that the method of cracking was limited to one or 2 styles. The hunting often had a hook like attachment at the base of the handle.  It had a variety of utilitarian uses, for carrying, re-shoeing horses etc. This attachment completely disappeared in the Australian stockwhip.

Plaited leather whip with carved, lacquered timber handle
Scott Rainbow collection, National Museum of Australia

The thongs consisted of a variety of materials, such as calf-skin, horsehide, gut, pigskin (which is very strong and has its own ventilation). The handle, or crop, used woods (hickory, malacca cane, willow).  Some of these had gut covering, gut having great decorative ability, and it was later suitable for use in plaiting machines.

It was this whip, rather than the driving whip that influenced the development of the Australian stockwhip.


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