Bowline Knots: Uses, Variations, And How to Tie One

There are many different types of knots out there which have been used for thousands of years for lots of different reasons. In this guide, we will talk about the bowline knot and what it is used for, the variations of it, and how to tie one. 

Bowline Knots Uses, Variations, And How to Tie One

What Is A Bowline Knot?

The bowline is a strong knot that makes a fixed loop at the end of a rope and is easy to untie, even when loaded.

The sheet bend and the bowline both have the same structural elements, with the exception that the bowline ties two ropes together and the sheet bend makes a loop in one rope.

The bowline is frequently regarded as one of the most important knots, along with the sheet bend and the clove hitch.

It is an extremely helpful knot available to an outdoor enthusiast. With the classic “the rabbit comes out of his hole, runs around the tree, and goes back down his burrow,” the bowline is also one of the first knots a lot of people learn.

It retains roughly 60% of the line strength and has a knot efficiency of 77%. The bowline knot is a popular knot because it does not bind or slide under strain, does not jam, and is quick and easy to tie.

There are also some downsides to using a bowline knot. Because it is simple to untie, the bowline knot is not appropriate for rock climbing or caving.

Climbers should use a stopper knot, which is a type of double overhand knot, to secure the end in these situations.

It might be difficult to untie a bowline while it is carrying a load. The standing end of a bowline knot cannot be loosened if the working end of the rope is loaded. This can make transporting things challenging.

History Of The Bowline Knot

The name of the bowline has a more ancient connotation that dates to the time of sail.

A bowline is a rope used on square-rigged ships to hold the edge of a square sail toward the ship’s bow and into the wind to keep the ship from being caught off guard.

When these ropes are pulled as tautly as possible to allow a ship to sail close-hauled to the wind, the phrase “tight bowline” is used to describe the situation.

Under the name Boling knot, the bowline knot is believed to have originally appeared in John Smith’s 1691 book “A Sea Grammar.”

The Bowline knot is also so tightly constructed and fixed by the bridles into the cringles of the sails, they will break or the sail split before it would slide, according to Smith, who thought the knot to be powerful and secure.

During an excavation in 1954, rigging from the sun ship of the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh Khufu was found to contain another potential discovery.

What Is A Bowline Knot Used For?

The bowline knot creates a fairly secure loop at the end of a piece of rope. They are frequently used to secure a boat’s mooring line to a sturdy object such as a tree, post, or anchor.

It is commonly used to secure lines during boating and sailing adventures.

It is simple to untie when there is no weight. To connect two ropes, two bowlines can be tied together. Its main disadvantage is that it cannot be knotted or untied when there is a load on the standing end.

It should thus be avoided when, for example, a mooring line must be released when under weight.

It can also be utilized for climbing, such as rescue operations and weight hauling. If you’re going on a climbing trip, you should tie a stopper knot around it.

However, in many climbing situations, it is not wise to rely too much on a bowline knot because it is simple to untie.

Variations Of The Bowline Knot

There are different variations of the bowline knot which have been adjusted for different situations. 

Yosemite Bowline

A loop knot called a Yosemite bowline is frequently thought to offer greater security than a bowline.

Testing has shown that this alternate design is robust and secure as a climbing tie-in, notwithstanding the possibility that the knot, if improperly prepared, may collapse into a noose.

The free end of a bowline is looped around one of the loop’s legs and tucked back through the knot to form a Yosemite bowline. This bowline is then finished with what is known as a “Yosemite finish” and a final round of twists.

Running Bowline

The running bowline is an excellent method for tying a noose that will not bind and can be readily undone. It is advised for usage in sailing for rescuing rigging or timber that has gone overboard, as well as in climbing for retrieving things in locations such as crevasses.

Round Turn Bowline

A round turn bowline (sometimes known as a double bowline) is a loop knot. The circular turn of the double bowline replaces the single turn of the ordinary bowline. This creates a more secure loop than a traditional bowline.

French Bowline

Contrary to the Spanish bowline, the French bowline, sometimes called the Portuguese bowline, creates two adjustable loops that may be used to hoist or lower an injured person, even if they are unconscious.

The seat is made up of one loop, which is wrapped around the wearer’s torso beneath their arms.

Water Bowline

A form of knot called the water bowline is made for usage in slick situations when other knots can slip or jam.

The water bowline is created using a clove hitch in the standing half of the rope, despite having a similar completed look to the double bowline.

Like the double bowline, which rotates the running end, is this. The clove hitch adds more friction, which strengthens this knot.

Tying A Bowline Knot

Tying a bowline knot takes focus and a lot of repetitions to create muscle memory, but once you get the hang of it, it should only take a couple of seconds to tie. This is especially true if you choose the widely used rabbit technique.

Bowline Knots Uses, Variations, And How to Tie One
  1. Consider the loop to be a “rabbit’s hole,” and the string end coming off the loop to be a “tree.” Consider the other end of the thread in your right hand to be the “rabbit.” The rabbit emerges from the hole, goes around the tree, and returns to the hole.
  1. Take one end of the rope in your left hand as your ‘standing end,’ or the one that does not move (think of this end as the ‘hole’ and the ‘tree’.)

With your other hand, grab hold of the opposite end. This is the free end of the rope, which will be used to tie the knot, often known as the ‘rabbit.’ Make a little loop in your left hand with the end of the string. This loop is the ‘hole’ through which the rabbit emerges.

  1. Draw the end of the thread (the rabbit) with your right hand through the loop produced by your left hand (the hole.) As it passes through the loop, the end should be approaching you. Consider this the rabbit emerging from its hole.
  1. Bring the ‘rabbit’ end of the string behind the string. This string represents the component of the loop that points upwards (or the tree). Return the ‘rabbit’ through the loop and into the ‘hole.’ This time, the end is leaving you.
  1. Take hold of the top loose string with your left hand. Hold the other end with your right hand and tighten the knot by pulling the ends in different directions.


The bowline is a very popular knot used for many things but mostly for boating. It does not jam, slip, or bind under strain and can retain about 66% of line strength.

Another great thing about this knot is that it is very quick and easy to tie and also learn. If you follow the steps in this guide on how to tie a bowline, you will remember it easier if you use the rabbit method.

Tim Roth
Latest posts by Tim Roth (see all)