A cowboy’s chaps are similar to chinks. Both are leather leg coverings worn by horseback riders – typically cowboys and cowgirls – as protection against weather, timber, brush, kicks, rope burns, and other hazards. Both chinks and chaps are buckled around the waist, and are open in the back so a rider’s seat is not covered.
Chaps run the full length of the rider’s legs. The two most common styles of chaps are shotgun and batwing.
- Shotgun chaps (which get their name from their straight design, similar to a shotgun barrel) are the original style of chap for working cowboys. They run the full length of the leg, and are typically closed around the leg from top to bottom. Modern shotgun chaps are usually made with a zipper or other fasteners running from the top of the leg to the bottom to make them easy to put on and take off. Older shotgun chaps – or new ones designed on an older style – might be enclosed from top to bottom requiring the rider to step into them like a pair of jeans.
- Batwing chaps are a style that came along after shotgun chaps. Batwing chaps also run the full length of the leg, but are typically only closed around the leg from the top of the chap to just above the knee. Buckles, snaps, and other fasteners are common. Batwing chaps are fuller cut than the shotgun style, having a generous amount of leather that overlaps the leg.
- Show chaps run the full length of the leg, and are typically closed around the leg from top to bottom. Show chaps have a zipper and are fringed. They also have an extended piece at the bottom of the leg to cover the boot while showing.
- Texas Bell chaps are typically worn by working cowboys. They are thicker and heavier leather for protection from the underbrush and other elements. They are step-ins which means they have no fastener other than the belts. They are laced together.
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