A lasso, also referred to as a lariat, riata, or reata (all from Spanish la reata), is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. They were used in the American Old West for many things, including to rope stray cattle and lead them back to the herd during cattle drives. Lassos are not only part of North American culture; relief carvings at the ancient Egyptian temple of Pharaoh Seti I at Abydos, built c.1280 BC, show the pharaoh holding a lasso, then holding onto a bull roped around the horns. Huns are recorded as using lassos in battle to ensnare opponents prepared to defended themselves in hand-to-hand combat around AD 370.
A lariat is made from stiff rope so that the noose stays open when the lasso is thrown. It also allows the cowboy to easily open up the noose from horseback to release the cattle because the rope is stiff enough to be pushed a little. A high quality lasso is weighted for better handling. The lariat has a small reinforced loop at one end, called a honda or hondo, through which the rope passes to form a loop. The honda can be formed by a honda knot (or another loop knot), an eye splice, a seizing, rawhide, or a metal ring. The other end is sometimes tied simply in a small, tight, overhand knot to prevent fraying. Most modern lariats are made of stiff nylon or polyester rope, usually about 5/16" or 3/8" in diameter and in lengths of 28', 30', 35' for arena-style roping and anywhere from 45' to 70' for Californio-style roping. The reata is made of braided (or less commonly, twisted) rawhide and is made in lengths from 50' to over 100'. Mexican maguey (agave) and cotton ropes are also used in the longer lengths.