1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bolas

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Bolas (plural of Span. bola, ball), a South American Indian weapon of war and the chase, consisting of balls of stone attached to the ends of a rope of twisted or braided hide or hemp. Charles Darwin thus describes them in his Voyage of the Beagle: “The bolas, or balls, are of two kinds: the simplest, which is used chiefly for catching ostriches, consists of two round stones, covered with leather, and united by a thin, plaited thong, about 8 ft. long. The other kind differs only in having three balls united by thongs to a common centre. The Gaucho (native of Spanish descent) holds the smallest of the three in his hand, and whirls the other two around his head; then, taking aim, sends them like chain shot revolving through the air. The balls no sooner strike any object, than, winding round it, they cross each other and become firmly hitched.” Bolas have been used for centuries in the South American pampas and even the forest regions of the Rio Grande. F. Ratzel (History of Mankind) supposes them to be a form of lasso. The Eskimos use a somewhat similar weapon to kill birds. Bolas perdidas (i.e. lost) are stones attached to a very short thong, or, in some cases, having none at all.