Handmade Bullwhips: Whether To Work With Leather Or Nylon

A bullwhip may not be a traditional accessory or the perfect gift for everyone on a Christmas list but there are occasions when one is wanted or needed. Whipcracking has become a popular sport and rhythmic whipcracking has been enjoyed by many cultures around the world for centuries. Decorative bullwhips also make excellent additions to Halloween and cosplay outfits and are a unique decorative touch in some western and rustic home designs. Bullwhips are available for purchase but many people like to craft their own. The question many builders have is if they should use leather or nylon paracord as the main material.

When to Use Leather

  • Tradition. Obviously, centuries ago when men were herding cattle on the range they were using durable materials that were handy to them. This meant leather and many purists still prefer it for their whips.                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  • Pop Culture. Zorro, Indiana Jones, and even Catwoman took whips onto the big screen and made them a part of their personality. Recreating their costumes is possible with nylon but would not be considered authentic enough for cosplay purists.                                                                                                                                                            
  • Appearance. Some prefer the look of leather to nylon because it has a more authentic appeal.                                                                                                                    
  • Accuracy. Many prefer the heavier feel of a leather whip when using it for competitions like target cracking. The weight makes it easier for an expert handler to control where the end of the whip lands. 

When to Use Nylon

  • Moisture. Nylon is less prone to receiving damage when used in wet conditions.  It will not mold or mildew and is easier to keep clean.                                                          
  • Cost. Purchasing materials to make a paracord whip will cost much less than a genuine leather whip. This is especially true when choosing a popular, quality leather like kangaroo hide.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  • Simplicity. It is much easier to braid multiple feet of nylon than rawhide or leather - no matter how supple the leather may be.                                                                                         
  • Decorative. Anyone that wants a unique bullwhip as a costume or home accessory will appreciate the vibrancy and variety of colors in nylon when compared to what is possible with leather. 

Bullwhip enthusiasts typically agree that leather and nylon bullwhips are nearly equal when it comes to usage and appearance in most instances. The decision of which material to use is really based on personal preference. The most important tip, regardless of the type of whip being crafted, is to always use the best quality material possible and learn how to properly maintain that material to keep it looking its best.