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A hunter using bolas while mounted on a horse.
|Place of origin||The Americas|
Bolas (from Spanish bola, "ball", also known as boleadoras, or Inca ayllo) are a throwing weapon superficially similar to the surujin, made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, designed to capture animals by entangling their legs. They were most famously used by the gauchos (Argentinian cowboys), but have been found in excavations of Pre-Columbian settlements, especially in Patagonia, where indigenous peoples used them to catch 200 pound guanaco (llama-like mammals) and ñandú (birds). They were also used in battle by the Inca army. They have also been found as a modern-day tool in North America at the Calico Early Man Site.
Gauchos use boleadoras to capture running cattle or game. Depending on the exact design, the thrower grasps the boleadora by one of the weights or by the nexus of the cords. He gives the balls momentum by swinging them and then releases the boleadora. The weapon is usually used to entangle the animal's legs, but when thrown with enough force might even inflict damage (i.e., breaking a bone).
Traditionally, Inuit have used bolas to hunt birds, fouling the birds in air with the lines of the bola. People of a Feather showed Belcher Island Inuit using bolas to hunt eider ducks on the wing.
There is no uniform design; most bolas have two or three balls, but there are versions of up to eight or nine. Some bolas have balls of equal weight, others vary the knot and cord. Gauchos use bolas made of braided leather cords with wooden balls or small leather sacks full of stones at the ends of the cords.
Bolas can be named depending on the number of weights used:
- Perdida (one weight)
- Avestrucera or ñanducera (two weights)
- Boleadora (three weights)
- Kiipooyaq (Inuit name for bolas with three or more weights)
Bolas of three weights are usually designed with two shorter cords with heavier weights, and one longer cord with a light weight. The heavier weights fly at the front parallel to each other, hit either side of the legs, and the lighter weight goes around, wrapping up the legs.
In popular culture
- Bolas are a typical weapon of ninja and various warriors in several anime and comics.
- In the 1979 Bond film, Moonraker, 007 checks in with Q at an MI6 base in Brazil where several weapons are being tested for near-future use. One of these is a bolas modified with balls that, once wrapped around a test dummy, explode on impact. A short time later, the exploding balls from the bolas (without cord) are instead used as mines during a river chase.
- The superhero Batman, in particular the animated version, makes use of bolas to ensnare criminals or trap supervillains. In some instances the bolas attach to a rope or line, permitting Batman to reel in the criminal after he has caught them, often leaving the criminal hanging from a height so the police can apprehend them with ease.
- In Smite, the Mayan God of the Moon, Xbalanque uses bolas as his weapon of choice.
- In the Game of Thrones episode "You Win or You Die," the character Rakharo uses a weapon akin to bolas to apprehend a wine merchant who attempts to poison Daenerys Targaryen.
- In the Quick Draw McGraw animated cartoon “Bull-Leave Me” (Season 1, Episode 25, original airdate March 5, 1960), Quick Draw and Baba Looey travel to Argentina to round up a runaway prize bull. The ranch owner, skeptical of Quick Draw’s qualifications, asks him, “What’s a bolo?” Quick Draw’s reply: “It’s something you keep goldfish in. Like ‘bolo goldfish’.”
- In the Star Trek episode "Amok Time," the Vulcan weapon ahn-woon, consisting of a leather strip with weights at each end, is used to entangle the legs of a competitor in a pon farr (ritual mating battle).
- Rengar, a champion in a multiplayer online battle arena computer game League of Legends utilizes bola strike as one of his skills, to ensnare enemy champions.
- In the Original Hawaii Five-O, Season 12, Episode 3, Though the Heavens Fall, the vigilante group use bolas to capture the criminals.
- Bolas spiders, which swing a sticky web blob at the end of a web line to capture prey.
- Bolo tie, a style of tie resembling the weapon