We get questions about the meaning of
In the 1933 Cowboy Lore, by Jules Verne Allen (more about that here) one
interesting section of commonly used
terms includes entries such as
"HOOLIHANING, the act of leaping
forward and alighting on the horns of
a steer in bull-dogging in a manner to
knock the steer down without having to
resort to twisting the animal down
with a wrestling hold. Hoolihaning is
barred at practically all recognized
In response to our posting that information, Rod Miller wrote "The
line 'throw the Hoolihan' that appears
in 'I Ride an Old Paint' almost surely
refers to a type of loop used in
roping, often for catching horses. A
hoolihan is a kind of backhand loop,
but distinct from a regular backhand
loop in that the roper rolls his wrist
and the loop rolls over in the air.
That rolling motion also describes the
motion of a hoolihanned steer in
bulldogging -- it does a forward roll.
It is unlikely that the line in the
song has reference to bulldogging as
Bill Pickett is credited with
inventing that particular activity
long after, I suspect, 'I Ride an Old
Paint" was first written and sung."
Rod also referred us to the definition of "hooley-ann" in Ramon F.
Adams' Cowboy Lingo (1936): "The term
'hooley-ann' was a roping term and the
throw was used mostly to catch calves
out of a bunch and to rope horses. The
roper rode with his loop in his hand,
and when the chance presented itself,
he swung the loop backward instead of
forward, and as it came over it was
turned in such a way as to cause it to
flatten out before it reached the head
of the animal to be roped. Just one
swing and it could be tossed thirty
feet forward. The size of the loop
depended upon the distance it was to
be thrown and the size of the animal.
A good calf-roper who used the
'hooley-ann' might be thirty feet from
a wee tot of a calf and start a loop
that a beef steer could pass through,
but the noose ran out by reason of the
distance, and by the time it reached
the calf, it was barely large enough
to pass around the calf's neck."
Adams' definition of "hoolihaning" is word-for-word the same as that in
Jules Verne Allen's Cowboy Lore cited
above. Cowboy Lore was published
three years before Adams' book.
A history site here:
claims "A Hoolihan is a
left-hand-and-around horse throw. The
rope is released with minimum of
A site here:
has the song and a note: "A very
dangerous rodeo move, jumping from a
horse at full gallop onto a moving
cow, to flip it over. The move, named
after it's originator, is now banned
The PBS History of the West site
places the song in the 1868-1874
period, but without documentation.
In May, 2006, Don comments:
"My Dad, who grew up in the 1920's and 1930's on a ranch in west Texas,
said that throwing the hoolihan could
be used to mean 'getting ready to die'
similar to 'headin' for the last
In July, 2006, Milton writes:
Hoolihan is a loop thrown, usually when you're roping horses.