Chaps are not just for decoration though they can be pretty decorative. They help to protect the cowboy’s legs from getting cut up, whether from thorny bushes on the range or the horns of bucking bulls at the rodeo. There are different styles of chaps but rodeo cowboys like my character, Clay Tanner, in Re-Ride at the Rodeo usually ride with batwing chaps. Barrel racers often wear chaps too. Batwing chaps only have a couple of fasteners to go around the thigh and their loose fit allows the air to circulate. It’s also easier to mount a horse or bull with batwings and because they are loose they allow for the spurring movement that is part of score when riding broncs.
As the picture below illustrates, they look a lot like batwings when in motion.
In the Old West, there were several versions that were popular depending on the region. Stovepipe or shotgun chaps were straight and narrow and were used by Texas cowboys beginning in the 1870s. Chaps influenced by the vaquero tradition are the shorter chaps called Chinks and the slightly longer Armitas which enclose the leg and have to be put on like pants. The first guy in the photo to the right looks like he might have on Armitas.
Woolie chaps were used mainly by plains and mountain cowboys. Made of angora wool on hide, they were the warmest of the chaps—good for those cold winters in the Rocky Mountain states.
Chaps aren’t exactly cheap. Though a thrifty cowboy can buy a used pair of chaps for around $100 on e-bay if he’s not particular, a custom hand-made pair can run upwards of $250 to $350 or more. But then you can have it decorated with different colored fringe, add conchos, a fancy buckle and really express yourself. You could blow a day’s worth of hard-earned rodeo winnings just on a slick pair of chaps. Dress 'em up cowboy!
Anne Carrole has been writing stories since she was in elementary school but back then the hero was more likely to ride a bike not a horse and share a stick of gum rather than a kiss. A co-founder of the western historical romance site, http://www.facebook.com/lovewesternromances , her muse usually comes wearing a cowboy hat. Raised on a farm with horses, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and whatever other animals she could convince her parents to shelter, she’s married to her own sweet-talking hero and is the proud mother of a college-aged daughter. They all share their home with a sleek black cat with way too much attitude.