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Whipcracking is the act of producing a cracking sound through the use of a whip. Originating during mustering and horse driving/riding, it has become an art of its own. A rhythmic whipcracking belongs to the traditional culture among various Germanic peoples of Bavaria (Goaßlschnalzen), various Alpine areas (Aperschnalzen), Austria and Hungary (Ostorozás). Today it is performance art, a part of rodeo shows in United States, a competitive sport in Australia and increasingly popular in the United Kingdom, where it crosses boundaries of sport, hobby and performance.


Physics of whip cracking

The whip's crack is produced when a section of the whip moves faster than the speed of sound and creates a sonic boom. The creation of the sonic boom was confirmed by high-speed photography in 1958.[1]

The high speed of the tip is explained by the law of the conservation of momentum. The initial motion is applied to the handle, and the initial wave along the whip's thong has a much larger mass than the end wave at the whip's tip or popper (a thin flexible piece of material tied at the end of the whip). Since the momentum is the product of the mass and speed of the moving object, the smaller the mass, the higher the speed, hence the light popper moves extremely fast. Also, the more flexible the popper, the shorter (and lighter) the last moving wave, hence an even higher speed. Many popular science explanations published capitalize on the fact that the general shape of a whip is tapered: thick at the handle and very narrow at the tip, hence the decrease of the mass. While tapering does contribute to the quality of the crack, it is not a deciding factor. Even "flat" whips can crack: the actual decrease of the mass of the moving part occurs simply because the whip ends: the closer the moving loop to the tip, the shorter the moving part. In this respect the whip crack resembles the "shoaling" action of a tsunami: a deep-water ocean wave piles up tremendously when entering into shallow waters. Recently, an additional, purely geometrical factor was recognized: the tip of the whip moves twice as fast at the loop of the whip, just like the top of a car's wheel moves twice as fast as the car itself.[1]

Apatosaurus: The earliest whipcracker?

An interesting speculation was reported by the Discover Magazine in 1997 about "whipcracking" millions of years ago. Nathan Myhrvold, a computer scientist from Microsoft, carried out a computer simulation of an Apatosaurus, which has a very long, tapering tail resembling a whip, and concluded that sauropods were capable of producing a crack of over 200 decibels, comparable to the sound of a cannon.[2]

Whipcracking shows and competitions


Goaßlschnalzen, Goaßlschnalzn, Goasslschnoizen is translated as "whip-cracking", from the Bavarian word Goaßl for coachwhip. In earlier centuries, the carriage drivers used elaborate crack sequences to signal their approach and to identify them. Over time horse-drawn transport dwindled, but the tradition remained, and coaches practiced their skill in their spare time.

Today the Goaßlschnalzer ("whipsnappers") do concert performances, often as bands that include conventional musical instruments. Whipsnapping is also a traditional sport in Bavaria. There are many whip-cracking associations in Bavaria.


Aperschnalzn or Aperschnalzen is an old tradition of competitive whipcracking revived in the first half of the 20th century. The word "aper" means "area free of snow", and it has been thought that this tradition had a pagan meaning of "driving the winter away" by whipcracking.

British Whipcracking Convention

14 July 2007 saw the third British Whipcracking Convention, this year held in Aldersley Leisure Village, Aldersley Road, Wolverhampton The British Whipcracking Convention is a place for all who are interested in whip cracking. This ranges from complete novices who have never picked up a whip, through intermediate skills to expert skill sharing. There are workshops for the differing skill levels as well as competitions and targets. [3]

Australian sport

In the latter half of the 20th century, attempts to preserve traditional crafts, along with a resurgence of interest in Western performance arts and the release of films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark (in which the hero, Indiana Jones, uses a bullwhip as a tool), led to an increased interest in whipcracking as a hobby and performance art, as well as a competitive sport. Whip cracking competitions have become especially popular in Australia. They focus on the completion of complex, multiple-cracking routines and precise target work. Various whips, apart from bullwhips, are used in such competitions.

  • Target routines
    • target cutting
    • object wrapping
    • object moving/manipulation
  • Cracking routines
    • Cracking patterns
    • Cracking with two whips

In cracking routines, the judging criteria are the presentation and making audible cracks in prescribed moments.

See also



  • Andrew Conway, The New Bullwhip Book, Loompanics Unlimited, 2005. ISBN 1559502444
  • Robert Dante, Let's Get Cracking! The How-To Book of Bullwhip Skills, CreateSpace, 2008. ISBN 1440406235

External links



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